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AI for impact: How Google Cloud is bringing AI to accelerate climate action

As COP28 kicks off, it is clear we have a lot more to do in both raising ambitions and taking action. The latest United Nations analysis finds current emissions pledges likely mean warming of nearly three degrees Celsius this century. That translates to rapidly escalating hazards, such as floods, fire, and loss of farmland, worldwide. And this warming could be substantially higher if these pledges aren’t met.

So what do we do? The UN calls for urgent acceleration of low-carbon transformations, especially in high-income, high-emitting countries, and this is where Google has a unique opportunity to help.

At Google, we believe that climate change is one of the most urgent and critical collective challenges facing the world today. And we’re helping in many ways. We remain unwavering in our commitment to the Paris Agreement and the urgency to chart a sustainable course, or face the worst consequences of climate change.

It’s why we’re pursuing net-zero emissions across our operations and value chain by 2030, supported by an ambitious clean energy goal to run on 24/7 carbon-free energy on every grid where we operate. That’s good news for billions of consumers and users who search, use Gmail, store photos, or use Google products to do business.

Our commitment extends to our customers and partners, too. Google Cloud recognizes the potential of cloud and AI to play an essential role in cutting carbon whilst helping companies drive efficiency and green growth. A recent report released by Google with BCG suggests that AI has the potential to mitigate 5-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. 5% is equivalent to a third of the emissions of the whole of the USA.

In support of the COP28’s presidency’s goal of an accelerated transition, we are focused on three areas: improving access to data about the climate transition, building the climate tech ecosystem, and unlocking the potential of geospatial analytics for climate resilience.

1. Improving access to climate transition data

Today, climate transition data, including key data on company greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and emission reduction targets, is not reported consistently, and there are often barriers to accessing this information. Furthermore, actionable insights into where companies can reduce emissions and drive ROI are also difficult to obtain.

That is why we are excited to be involved in the creation of the Net Zero Public Data Utility being launched by Michael Bloomberg at COP28.

The Net-Zero Data Public Utility (NZDPU) aims to become a global, centralized, and open repository for data related to climate transition in the private sector — freely available to all stakeholders. Participants will be able to easily access and interpret a core set of company-level climate transition related data, a critical step in realising the net-zero transition. The NZDPU RFP process led to the selection of Google, Insomniac Design Inc, and CyBourn Inc. to design and build the NZDPU proof of concept being launched at COP28.

2. Building the climate tech ecosystem

We are committed to supporting the growing ecosystem of climate tech entrepreneurs and startups who are harnessing cloud and AI to drive impact.

A key part of this is the Google Cloud Ready – Sustainability (GCR-S) validation initiative, which can help accelerate the sustainability transition for all our customers. Already, forty climate tech partners with the GCR-S designation are now building their solutions on Google Cloud to reduce carbon emissions, increase the sustainability of value chains, help organizations manage their climate data, or identify climate risks for increased resilience. We look forward to combining cloud technologies, financing support, and connectivity to partners across the Google Cloud ecosystem to support innovative climate tech vendors accelerate their growth.

3. Unlocking the potential of geospatial analytics for climate resilience

Finally, we’re focusing on the physical impacts of climate. There’s huge potential for geospatial analytics to support adaptation to climate risks — especially in increasing resilience.

Geospatial analytics can help organizations improve their understanding of the impact of climate change on their business infrastructure and supply chains. Through the power of Google Earth Engine, BigQuery and Vertex AI, Google Cloud and its partners are bringing visibility to both near-term acute risks and longer-term chronic climate risks.

For example, Climate Engine, a Google Cloud Ready – Sustainability partner, has launched SpatiaFi on Google Cloud. Together with Deloitte, Google Cloud and Climate Engine helped UK bank NatWest explore the use of its satellite-data archive in conjunction with Climate Engine’s SpatiaFi software platform. The work allowed NatWest to understand the role that geospatial data can play in capturing key climate-related data points for their agriculture customers.

Similarly, during 2023 we supported the UN Race to Resilience to harness geospatial data and analytics to support improved climate resilience and adaptation. Together with, we ran a design sprint during NY Climate Week in September 2023 to explore the potential of geospatial technologies to help vulnerable communities understand the impact of climate change on their communities, and to deploy solutions to reduce these impacts. The Race to Resilience team and Google are now exploring the next phase of this project to be delivered with partners in 2024.

COP28 is about accelerating action. We are committed to bringing the power of AI and Google Cloud technologies to support organizations in measuring, optimizing and reinventing their businesses for a low-carbon economy. We will be at the heart of these new data platforms, unlocking the potential of AI and in supporting the climate tech innovators of tomorrow.

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