24 Oct 2023

Future 2030 Series Takeaways: Beyond the Tipping Point, How Tech will be a Key Enabler in Tackling Climate Change

Tech Insights

Product & Technology

Future 2030 Series Takeaways: “Beyond the Tipping Point: How Tech will be a Key to Adaption

In our endeavour to combat climate change, technology has emerged as a powerful ally, offering a multitude of innovative solutions to reduce emissions, harness renewable energy, and adapt to an increasingly unpredictable environment.

In a panel discussion comprising of Professor Sun Sun Lim (Singapore Management University), Pui Yan Leung (Partner, Vertex Ventures SEA & India), Associate Professor Winston Chow (Singapore Management University), Kousik Toppe (Obayashi Asia) and Jeff Adie (Nvidia), our panel experts untangle the complexity of technology vis-à-vis other social, economic and political factors, seeking a holistic understanding of how technology and society must harmonize to forge a sustainable future.

If you’re keen, you can watch the full panel discussion here, or continue on to our key takeaways from the discussion.

Technologies role in catalysing adoption and reducing friction

While climate-technologies such as carbon capture utilisation and storage,  electrification of fleets or other technologies to decarbonise seem like obvious candidates for investment, the reality as Pui Yan Leung puts it, is quite different. Take for example agriculture, where there is an immense opportunity to decarbonise. The reality is that farmers have no incentive to buy new equipment or change the way they farm their land as a drop in yield at any point in time, will mean a loss in income and hence resistance from farmers. Hence in Pui Yan’s words, “ if anyone can come in and say that I can use technology AI, or there are solutions that can remove all this friction. And so if you can imagine there are about 100 million farmers, big and smallholder farmers in our region. If we can empower that at scale, I think that's very powerful.”


Pui Yan also stressed that any solution needs to be market-lead, which would ultimately form to an ecosystem of support around the respective technologies. “I firmly believe that if the market demands it, then there will be people, innovations, and policies to support that demand. If the market demands for it. So any technology solutions, a business model that will encourage you and me to become more climate-conscious.“

Touching on the debate around carbon markets and green-washing, Pui Yan also touched on the issue around integrity of carbon credits, and hence any form of technology that can ascertain the integrity assurance of the carbon credits will ultimately be key to unlocking the economic potential of the market.

Current programs such as Gold Standard, a voluntary carbon offset program, focuses on progressing the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and developed rigorous certification criteria for projects that aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Technology’s role in reducing climate vulnerability for the marginalised

While climate change is a threat to everyone, it does not affect everyone equally. The impact of climate change perpetuate and magnify structural inequalities, such as those between women and men. This is especially true in many parts of the world where women rely on climate-sensitive work like agriculture and manual labour to make a living. In such an aspect, technology also has a vital role.

Associate Professor Winston Chow sums this up -“ But in terms of adaptation, in terms of reducing climate vulnerability, It's a who question. In this sense, vulnerable populations that I want to include in the assessment to reduce vulnerability, are the very young, and the very old, especially in extremely climate-vulnerable areas in Asia. Women. The gender factor is very large in that equation of reducing vulnerability. And this is where technology plays a significant role as a leveler in terms of giving the agency, giving them a voice in organizations like the UN, the IPCC, and UNFCC. Having parties who acknowledge that these are the people who have contributed the least to climate change. But at the greatest risk to that, having them have a seat at the table is the first step towards leveling the climate playing field. “


Technology hence acts as a crucial equalizer for women in addressing the impacts of climate change. It provides them with access to vital information, resources, and opportunities, empowering them to actively participate in climate adaptation efforts. Through inclusive decision-making, education, and access to sustainable solutions, technology helps women build resilience and contribute to a more sustainable future. For example, Zimbabwe is establishing a renewable energy fund that will create specific entrepreneurship opportunities for women. In Uzbekistan, a pilot green mortgage scheme helped rural households in 5 regions access affordable low-carbon energy technologies.

Providing access to communication was another example raised by Associate Professor Chow -  It could be something as incredibly basic as giving them a phone or having a steady infrastructure communication network in places like Bangladesh or in coastal India, which are incredibly vulnerable to sea level rise, incredibly vulnerable to extremes in rainfall. Women who live and work there, have to care for their families, they have to go out into the fields to help you know their husbands or their partners, and they don't oftentimes get the chance to be heard, they don't, oftentimes get the chance to have an education. So having communication access allows people to listen to them. Allow them to learn from academics, allow them to learn from schools remotely. That's one-way technology can help in that sense. ”

With climate change, countries in LDCs (least developed countries) such as Africa, South America and some parts of Asia are subject to extreme weather events. Jeff Adie raised an example of an AI nowcasting pilot project that aimed to bring forecasting abilities to such LDCs – “can we use AI to bring extreme weather forecasting capabilities to least developed countries? So we're looking at Africa, we're looking at South America, we're looking at parts of Asia, in particular Laos, in this region as potential beneficiaries where they don't have the knowledge, they don't necessarily have the computational resources, and they don't have the capabilities to be able to predict extreme weather events, which we're going to see more and more of with climate change. So I think that works really important.” 


As the world grapples with the multi-faceted issue of climate change, these conversations serve as an important spur for cross-sector cooperation between all stakeholders. The role of technology in climate adaption and mitigation is a critical enabler, with the panel identifying much needed areas for addressing friction and gender inequality, but also the reality that technology is no panacea but rather as Associate Professor Chow and Jeff Adie puts it, “needs to be scaffolded by a bunch of other structures”, including industry government and academia.

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