Key considerations for leaders at COP27

From the 6 – 18 of November, the Egyptian coastal city of Sharm el-Sheikh will play host to the largest annual gathering on climate action the world over: COP27. This year’s event marks the thirtieth anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, with COP27’s fundamental purpose to push the climate agenda forward with further development of the goals established in the landmark Paris Agreement of 2015.

This year’s conference will also be forced to contend with the fact the world has changed significantly in the year since COP26 in Glasgow. For the first time in more than 75 years a land war ravages Europe, with its consequences being felt around the globe. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sent the energy market into unprecedented levels of turbulence. Meanwhile, global economic stability — already precarious in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic — has been pushed even closer to the brink.

These problems sit alongside the fact the number of climate-induced natural disasters continues to rise, with this year’s floods in Pakistan just the latest tragic example. Since 1950, the global number of floods has increased by a factor of fifteen and the number of wildfires by a factor of eight, making such events increasingly expected but no less devastating for those impacted. COP27 is tasked with finding solutions that will make clear and tangible progress towards mitigating climate disaster, with no time to lose. Commitments and pledges may be sincere and well-meaning, but without action they are futile. The time has come to follow through.

The transition to LED lighting is the solution we need

The concurrent crises of climate change, spiraling energy markets, and global economic insecurity are distinct but interlinked problems. Transitioning from energy-wasteful conventional lighting to energy-efficient LED lighting offers a solution with potentially massive benefits for all three issues, both now and in the future.

The ability of LED lighting to increase energy efficiency cannot be overstated, in most cases slashing consumption by well over 50% when compared with conventional alternatives. This number can rise to as high as 80% with connected LED lighting systems that offer smart system management, monitoring, and control. Lighting accounts for 13% of all electricity usage worldwide, and two-thirds of professional light points around the world are still conventional. The potential energy savings that could be realised by a global switch to LED are colossal and could see lighting-related energy consumption drop to 8% globally by 2030, even while the total number of light points continues to rise.

You may see those numbers, appreciate the clear benefits, and recognise that transitioning to LED is a smart move, but convince yourself now’s not the time. As the current state of global finances means you should be looking to save money, not spend it. The thing is, if you really want to save money, then transitioning is your best bet. The savings generated – in both the immediate and long-term future – are such that the question isn’t whether you can afford to make the switch, but whether you can afford not to.

If every city and business in the world converted all their conventional light points to LED, the savings in electricity costs would total €177 billion per year. In the residential sector, upgrading just the EU27’s 1.7 billion conventional light points to ultra-efficient LEDs could effectively generate electricity savings of 34.1 TWh. That’s equivalent to the annual consumption of 9.4 million households, or the electricity needed to charge over 10 million electric vehicles. In monetary terms, it’s tantamount to annual savings of over €11 billion. Switching all light points in the 27 EU member states, residential and otherwise, to LED could save around €65 billion a year. And a mid-sized municipality would be looking at energy savings of over €26 million a year.

These are numbers that should be inspiring decision-makers at COP27 to take action. An effective energy-saving technology exists and is readily available—and the cost to implement it is covered by the reduction in energy costs it enables. Especially within regions where public funding for climate initiatives has been made available, such as the Green Deal in the EU or the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Inflation Reduction Act in the US, as well as others elsewhere.

But the LED transition is not just about energy or fiscal savings. Decarbonization has long been a vital part of the climate agenda and COP27 is no different, with 11 November officially labelled as Decarbonization Day within the conference. Scores of powerful nations have made net zero pledges, and upgrading conventional light points to LED is a way to make progress toward fulfilling these promises quickly.

Those who have made pledges need to act on them now if they are serious about seeing them through, with the potential for large-scale decarbonization at the mercy of their decisiveness. For example, if all businesses and cities were to transition, it would take more than 553 million tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere. That’s equivalent to the amount of carbon that 25 billion trees sequester in a year. Too high a scale to consider? Let’s think smaller. In a city of 200,000 inhabitants, switching all conventional lighting to LED could reduce CO2 emissions by 18,000 tons per year, the equivalent to the yearly absorption of almost 850,000 trees.

It is time for everyone to adapt

Changes need to be made to the current policies and approaches of most COP27 attendees — and soon — if we are to avoid disaster. The talk has already been talked: it’s time to walk the green walk. COP27 provides the perfect opportunity for key decision-makers to demonstrate the commitment to moving beyond the conversational stage. It’s no longer about whether action should be taken but about actually implementing large-scale changes to long-standing counterproductive patterns of behavior, on an institutional, national, and international level. These changes must be made in an equitable manner — global solutions to global problems — with developing nations as much a part of the energy transition as the more established global players.

Act now

COP27 is a chance for world and business leaders to take the next step in the green energy transition, to move from making promises to seeing them through. Transitioning to energy-efficient LED lighting is a proven solution that reduces carbon output and energy consumption in a cost-efficient way. Cities, businesses, and individuals need to work with reliable technology partners who have demonstrated their commitment to the sustainable cause and the viability of their solutions.

These are turbulent times, rife with economic and ecological uncertainty. But it’s in times of darkness that we most need light.

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Green IT