I don’t know if it’s by accident or design but the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, and the G-20 Summit that preceded it in Rome, were scheduled around Halloween and the Day of the Dead. Most governments seem afraid to face the existential challenge of climate change and are more spooked by an army of highly-paid lobbyists than by an infinitely more powerful Mother Nature. At the same time, however, promising innovations coming from NGOs and a core of socially responsible companies offer a slim glimmer of sunshine amidst the gloom.
The vague G20 Rome Leaders’ Declaration “to hold the global average temperature increase well below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels” offers no road map or plan despite the fact that global warming has steadily accelerated well beyond that temperature in recent decades, that irreversible damage to the global environment has occurred and that the 2009 annual $100 billion commitment made by developed countries to assist developing countries significantly missed its target, and that even now, this obsolete target itself is unrealistically low.
Now the heat, both literally and figuratively, is on the COP26 meeting in Glasgow. It’s not only that it’s dangerously late in the game, but also that for the first time the plan adopted at COP26, unlike its predecessors, will be fully binding in international law. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in Rome that in terms of a potential environmental apocalypse, it was one minute to midnight. I think he was overly optimistic and that it’s well past midnight so it’s time to hope and try to plan for the best, but to prepare for the worst.
A slight glimmer of hope was the unexpected joint Sino-US declaration to work together to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C. It recalls the joint efforts of Presidents Obama and Xi in 2015 that led to the breakthrough Paris Accords but it still remains to be seen if soft pledges will ultimately result in necessary tough action at this later hour.
This is where the NGOs and enlightened private sector actors come into play. They might be able to soften or help eliminate the impending disaster and snatch a modicum of victory from the jaws of almost certain defeat.
And I don’t know if it was by accident or serendipity, but days before the G20 leaders assembled in Rome, in nearby Vienna, once Vindobona, a Roman army encampment 765 kilometers distant, the annual Huawei European Innovation Day was successfully held. It was an eye-opener!
Huawei seems to be perpetually in the news, at least in the West, positioned as some sort of Chinese Frankenstein from Central Casting poised to vacuum up confidential information from unsuspecting victims by hidden 5-G technology backdoors. Yet there seems to be no proof of this whatsoever and even the famed and very able British Intelligence establishment, home to the fictional James Bond, have said that there is no proof of the allegations. Perhaps they’re just weapons deployed in the Cold War 2.0 in which we currently uncomfortably find ourselves.
It seems that Huawei is not an undead creature in our midst, but a living enterprise hiding in plain sight, with corporate social responsibility as part of its very DNA. As Heinz Fischer, former Austrian President from 2004 to 2016 told the audience: “Huawei is one of the Chinese high tech companies which came to the Austrian market and made outstanding contributions to Austrian infrastructure construction of telecommunication and ICT (Information and Communications) personal training.” He should know as Vienna was the ground zero between East and West where many real James Bonds plied their trade.
President Fischer reminded us that Huawei’s motto is “open markets, fair competition and innovation“. Somehow this fact has gotten completely lost in translation.
And relevant to the G-20 and COP26, Huawei Senior Vice President Catherine Chen informed us that in September Huawei was named the 2020 WWF (formerly World Wildlife Federation) Climate Solver Awardee. This was based on Huawei strengthening the development and widespread use of low carbon technologies, which radically and transformatively reduced carbon-dioxide emissions and provided enhanced green energy access.
I was impressed that Huawei Digital Power Company by this past June had helped its customers generate 403.4 billion kilowatt hours of green power, saving 12.4 billion hours of electricity, and reducing emissions by 200 million tons. That’s the equivalent to planting 270 million trees.
I personally spoke with University of Vienna Professor Christian Schulze about his innovative Huawei-sponsored ecological conservation project with Austria’s National Parks. He and his colleagues are using Huawei digital technologies and Artificial Intelligence to observe birds living in reeds by lakes and developing advanced protection measures with a robustness never before possible.
And as Austria scores so high in global innovation metrics, I was pleased, but not surprised, to encounter the work of Felix Mueller the COO of Dronetech by Immotech Austria, taking agriculture to the next level of smart farming using Huawei 5-G technologies and AI to increase yields, while reducing negative environmental impacts, bringing the ancient craft of farming into the 21st century. It’s a model that can be replicated globally to address an acute food shortage. We learned that these were just a few examples of Huawei providing technology and funding, especially to startups to promote the development of advanced ecosystems.
I had no idea that Huawei has been working with governments and academic institutions to train talent for society to move theoretical research from laboratories to the real world for common benefit. I was impressed to know that digital literacy isn’t merely about growing a needed digital economy but that the UN now considers it a basic human right. This makes perfect sense.
Huawei has created programs such as Seeds for the Future, ICT Academy and 1000 Dreams to establish a talent ecosystem that encompasses not only universities, but also middle and primary schools. As a result, Huawei has established 147 ICT academies in Europe, through which more than 20,000 ICT talents have been certified.
European Innovation Day, coming in close proximity to the Rome G-20 and COP26, reminds us that the window of opportunity to reverse global warming is short and fleeting. Instead of engaging in dangerous zero-sum Cold War 2.0 games, we need to immediately cooperate with all stakeholders to avoid a catastrophe of our own making. If we don’t act now, it’s likely that even the most advanced technology in the world won’t be able to save us.