Goal 13: Climate Action

Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impact.

Over the past 20 years, 91% of the worldwide disasters were climate-related. The economic cost of these disasters was US$2,245 billion, and more than four billion people were affected. As world leaders around the globe join together to help combat climate change, technology has an important role too. It provides tools to help people before, during, and after disasters so the impact of climate-related incidents can either be minimized or even avoided. On top of that, the effective use of technology can help abate roughly 20% of projected greenhouse gases.

Climate Change Requires Resilience and Adaptive Capacity

According to the Report on Economic Losses, Poverty & Disasters published in 2018, direct economic losses of all disasters amounted to US$2,908 billion, of which climate-related disasters were responsible for US$2,245 billion, or 77% of the total. This is up from 68% (US$1,313 billion) as reported between 1978 and 1997. Between the two 20-year periods 1998 to 2017 and 1978 and 1997, reported losses from extreme weather events rose by 151%. Most of the losses (US$945 billion) from 1998 to 2017 were recorded in the United States, reflecting high asset values as well as frequent events.

According to the United Nations Development Program, more than 40 million people across the globe in 2016 and 2017 were forced either permanently or temporarily from their homes by weather-related disasters, mainly in countries that contribute the least to climate change. Climate change is a threat to rich and poor alike.

The World Economic Forum conducts a survey ranking the likelihood and impact of five categories of global risks. In its Global Risks Report, the organization ranked environmental risks as the most likely and impactful of the global risks. While extreme weather was the risk of greatest concern, survey respondents were cited as being “increasingly worried about failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation.” That view is shared by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction in its Report on Economic Losses, Poverty & Disasters: “At a time when climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, disasters will continue to be major impediments to sustainable development. Investing in disaster risk reduction is therefore a precondition for developing sustainably in a changing climate.”

Big Data: Helping to prevent disasters

The first of the subgoals of Goal 13 is to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries. Cities and countries are setting up early warning systems to be prepared and minimize the impact of disasters.

Even better than predicting disasters caused by climate change is preventing them. Technology – including Big Data and analytics – can play a role here too.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an international organization under the auspices of the United Nations, also relies on data to help prevent climate-related disasters. The organization reviews and assesses scientific, technical, and economic data on changes in climate and their impact from thousands of scientists all over the world. Its 2018 Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, describing the effects on sea-level rise, heat waves, and biodiversity loss, alarmed the world. It made clear that “limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”

Extreme climate and topography of Japan causes all types of natural disasters including volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis. University of Oita has devoted itself to the question how these disasters can be prevented and reduced more effectively. The team designed an information utilization platform called EDISON (Earth Disaster Intelligent System & Operational Network), which is powered by SAP and collects a vast amount of data. By centralizing all the data on the SAP HANA platform, the research team can work on disaster response that takes the total disaster cycle into account. This means that they can evaluate the risk by using the centralized data. With SAP Leonardo’s machine learning capabilities, the system tries to identify high-risk locations to ultimately enable resilient infrastructure planning and damage reduction.

Technology innovation is helping

While information and communication technology (ICT) is helping to detect, prevent, and alleviate the impact of natural disasters, it’s also something that consumes large amounts of energy, which in turn affects climate change.

However, ICT can have a significant impact on mitigating the risk of climate change. A study from the Global Enabling Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) demonstrated that ICT solutions, such as videoconferencing and smart building management, could cut the projected 2030 global greenhouse gas emissions by 19%. This would amount to energy and fuel savings comparable to 25 billion barrels of oil and a reduction of 12.1-gigaton carbon dioxide equivalent of greenhouse gases. This is equivalent to nearly 10 times the ICT sector’s emissions in the same period.

SAP is doing its part

At SAP, our purpose is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. To help customers address climate action, SAP launched the Climate 21 program to build analytical and transactional capabilities into our enterprise applications that can help our customers understand and minimize the greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint of their products and operations along their value chains.

SAP Product Carbon Footprint Analytics as part of SAP’s Climate 21 program supports businesses to analyze the accumulated amount of greenhouse gases and other environmental impacts created by the procurement, production, and logistics of services and finished goods. Beyond the impacts created by companies themselves, the Product Carbon Footprint measurements are gathered and shared by all collaborative suppliers and network partners in an efficient and trusted digital infrastructure. In May 2020, the German company Döhler became the first customer to go live with a pilot installation for one of their products allowing them now to trace related carbon emissions for this product back to its roots.

In the transition to new sustainable business models, SAP also has a team of over 2,200 Innovation Services and Solutions professionals focused on enabling customers to embrace disruption and transform their business through innovation; using intelligent technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and advanced data analytics.

FRoSTA is a midsize German company in the frozen food industry. The company, based in Bremerhaven, is actively leveraging intelligent technologies such as the SAP Cloud Platform and SAP S/4HANA to create end-to-end transparency. The company gives a carbon footprint to its products and subsequently publishes it on its website along the entire supply chain. This is done from the production of ingredients via the retailer to the end user. Based on this data, end consumers can track their carbon footprint when buying from FRoSTA.

In the beginning of 2020, SAP joined the CEO Carbon Neutral Challenge issued by Gucci President and CEO Marco Bizzarri pledging to support global business in the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Business travel is a key area of focus. According to the research that provides the foundation for the Corporate Travel Sustainability Index 2020 published by SAP Concur, nearly two thirds (65%) of corporate travel decision-makers either confidently claim that their approach is completely sustainable or that sustainability is at least an integral part of their corporate travel policies. However, the travelers in their companies need the data to support shifts towards more sustainable travel behavior. TripIT, a travel organizing app from Concur, enables frequent travelers to better understand their carbon footprint. Travelers get a holistic view of their air-travel footprint, as TripIT shows them the carbon emissions of their flights, tracks their annual flight emissions, and gives them ways to offset those environmental impacts – right alongside all their travel plans.

To equally tackle building efficiency for improved carbon footprint, SAP is partnering with Honeywell. The two teamed up to create a joint cloud-based solution based on Honeywell Forge. The solution will enable customers to benefit from building performance optimization, including reduced carbon footprint and lower energy costs, as well as improved tenant experience. A powerful, intuitive dashboard will be powered by both companies’ cloud platforms and will guide owners on real-time key performance indicators, including the sustainability of the building.

There is a lot more potential for carbon output reductions in working together with our customers and partners. According to the UN Environment's Emissions Gap Report published in December 2018, 6,000 companies with at least US$36 trillion in revenue have pledged climate mitigation action. This includes SAP and many of our customers. However, many more of the over 500,000 publicly traded companies worldwide have yet to act. SAP is one of the 70 original partners of the new Alliance for Development and Climate, introduced by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. This initiative is to help inspire more businesses to address climate change and achieve the societal benefits of sustainable development.

Crowdsourcing Climate Change Solutions

The UN Youth Strategy, Youth 2030, has the goal of facilitating increased impact and fostering young people’s engagement and participation in building a better future. To build on this strategy, UN Technology Innovation Labs (UNTIL) and SAP joined forces with Deloitte Digital to launch Reboot the Earth, a global youth hackathon for climate solutions. Under the auspices of the UN, this social coding event brought together young computer programmers, scientists, and other interested people to develop new models and innovative solutions to solve climate challenges. Through a series of hackathons on four continents, young people had the opportunity to use open data and apply technology concepts and practices to help solve climate challenges.

On a journey towards carbon neutrality

Within SAP, sustainable practices are embedded in everything we do – from running our data centers to reporting our results to stakeholders. For example, one goal in our holistic sustainability approach is to become carbon neutral by 2025. That requires SAP to run all its operations on 100% renewable energy and compensate for all other emissions within the material scope of its operations through investments such as those in the Livelihoods Carbon Fund.

This – together with a variety of carbon-reducing measures – helped our company decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 10,000 tons in 2019. But even more important, at 300 kilotons, the company’s net carbon footprint is below year-2000 levels – despite growing more than fourfold in the interim. Back in 2009, SAP had set the goal of reducing its global greenhouse gas emissions to the year-2000 level by 2020. This target was met at the end of 2017. A closer look at the per capita values reveals what that reduction means: In 2000, SAP recorded 13.9 tons in carbon dioxide emissions per employee. Today, this is only around 3 tons, a significant decoupling of emissions from company growth.

Taking the next step, SAP set 1.5°C science-based emissions reduction targets aligned with a net-zero future, responding to what the latest climate science indicates is needed to limit the worst impacts of climate change.

Next:

Goal 14: Life Below Water