Why the tech sector will be key to tackling climate emergency - Ismail Mulla

There’s no getting away from the fact that technology will play an increasingly pivotal role in our lives.

Will Smith and Peter Kirby have created a green debit card and app that enables people to measure and offset their carbon footprint.

If it wasn’t for tech, the economy would be in far worse shape than it is today. The ability to work from the safety of our homes enabled a lot of businesses to continue to operate with just minor disruptions.

Of course, that’s not a blanket statement. Hospitality has been through the wringer and manufacturing would have ground to a halt had they not been granted permission to continue operating during lockdowns.

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Beyond business, though, technology has permeated all aspects of our lives - sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.

Tred is a Leeds-based start-up.

The early days of the first lockdown last year also gave us a glimpse into just how important our environment is.

Who can forget those jaw-dropping pictures of waterways flowing crystal clear and teeming with aquatic life in its natural habitat?

The skies provided a clue as to just how much damage we were doing to this fragile planet in normal times.

Rather than navel gazing, we should treat the return to normal, for want of a better expression, as an opportunity to make a change for the better. This is where tech once again can be a key enabler.

A good example is Leeds-based tech start-up Tred. Will Smith and Peter Kirby have created a green debit card and app that enables people to measure and offset their carbon footprint.

It’s a simple idea that utilities open banking to help people understand their own contributions to carbon emissions. Tred empowers people to make the change that so many of us claim to want to make.

But more importantly, for me, it shows the importance of taking personal responsibility for the planet that we live on.

Mr Smith said: “A lot of people are focusing on the Government side of things with Cop 26 coming up, a lot of people are focusing on the business side of things but not many peopleare focusing on consumers.”

Sure, Governments across the world have failed on the climate emergency. And there are certain conglomerates that think their carbon footprint will be offset by some glossy brochures featuring pictures of trees and flowers.

However, change would come much more quickly if we all took individual responsibility. Markets would transform to reflect these behavioural changes in no time.

Businesses that do have a laissez faire attitude towards the climate emergency would find themselves floundering.

It’s all well sharing our indignation about plastic straws on social media but where does that get us if our very next act is to jump into a gas guzzling SUV to go to the supermarket?

Those that have been campaigning for action on the climate emergency may need to change their approach.

People need to be inspired and they need to feel that they are the ones benefiting as well.

I’m no different. Over the past couple of years, I have increasingly started drinking specialty coffee. I knew that there were still question marks over the sustainability and ethics of the coffee industry in general.

I also knew that specialty coffee has a far better track record on that front. But if it wasn’t for the benefit that I gained, far better tasting coffee from freshly roasted quality beans, I may not have continued to buy into the idea of specialty coffee.

I’m conscious that there is an economic divide here. It’s far easier to be green when you have the means to be green. This is why tackling economic inequality must be at the top of any Government’s agenda.

One thing that is for certain though is that tech provides us the opportunity to not only think differently but act differently.

And why shouldn’t Yorkshire become the hotbed for green tech in the future. We need only look around us to realise why it is so important that we look after the planet.

The region’s growing tech strength and people’s increasing desire to do better on the environment could put Yorkshire at the forefront of the green revolution. I, for one, am excited about where it could lead not just for the region’s tech sector but also a greener, brighter future.

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Thank you

James Mitchinson