3 innovations that will help achieve a technology-led transition

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Anne T. Madden, Senior Vice-President and General Counsel, Honeywell International Inc.


  • The journey to a carbon neutral world will not be possible without technology.
  • Both public and private sectors must back innovation in areas such as energy conservation and sustainable fuel.
  • Innovation has already led to advances in renewable aviation fuel, low global warming molecules and sustainable buildings.

There is good news around if you look for it: businesses are rolling up their sleeves and leading the change in the energy revolution; major global corporations are embedding sustainability into their operational strategies; partnerships between the public and private sectors are helping find solutions critical to tackling climate change. The journey to a carbon neutral world will not be possible without technology.

We cannot advance sustainability pledges at a national level without innovation from the private sector. Organizations are already working across a vast portfolio of sustainability-focused technologies, from innovative systems to make urban infrastructure smarter and less energy intensive, to decarbonization offerings and solutions for harnessing alternative fuel sources such as hydrogen and renewables.

But the public sector must also innovate. Advances in regulatory and policy frameworks and financial structures are key to creating the market conditions for sustainable technology to flourish and to ensure continued private sector investment in the most promising emerging areas. Here are some existing technologies that have been the result of similar efforts:

1. Renewable fuels

Aviation is one of the rapidly growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions. This is one area where industry has made significant progress and where technological solutions already exist. Honeywell’s EcofiningTM technology is able to produce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) that meets and exceeds American Society for Testing Materials jet fuel standards for performance. It can be made with a variety of feedstocks, including vegetable oils, animal fats and non-food-based, and second-generation feedstocks such as camelina, jatropha and algae.

However, public-private partnerships are needed to scale up the deployment and use of this technology. Collaboration needs to continue between global governments and industry to ensure that regulations being developed are consistent, clear and realistic with where SAF markets and related feedstocks are today. Doing so can help speed the adoption of sustainable fuel across global markets.

Governments need to coordinate with international partners to encourage the use of a range of widely available, economically viable, sustainable feedstocks. This will help address feedstock constraint issues as these markets develop.

2. Low global warming potential molecules

Small molecules can make a big impact when it comes to reducing emissions. The need for low global warming potential alternatives has led our scientists to develop hydrofluoroolefin (HFO) technology that is used in the form of propellants, aerosols, blowing agents and refrigerants.

This technology helps customers reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and can improve energy efficiency without sacrificing performance. It is used in everyday products, including for personal and household care, air conditioning for cars, refrigerants for supermarkets, blowing agents for insulation, and solvents for cleaning. These products have helped avoid the release of high global warming potential molecules equivalent to more than 295 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, equal to carbon sequestered by 110 billion trees.*

Discover

How is the World Economic Forum fighting the climate crisis?

The World Economic Forum’s Centre for Nature and Climate accelerates action on climate change and environmental sustainability, food systems, the circular economy and value chains, and the future of international development.

  • Through the Global Plastic Action Partnership, the Forum is bringing together government, business and civil society to shape a more sustainable world by eradicating plastic pollution.
  • Global companies are collaborating through the Forum’s 1t.org initiative to support 1 trillion trees by 2030, with over 30 companies having already committed to conserve, restore and grow more than 3.6 billion trees in over 60 countries.
  • Through a partnership with the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry and over 50 global businesses, the Forum is encouraging companies to join the First Movers Coalition and invest in innovative green technologies to enable net-zero emissions by 2050.
  • The Forum is bringing global leaders together to reduce the environmental impact of value chains and make the $4.5 trillion circular economy opportunity a reality. The African Circular Economy Alliance is funding circular economy entrepreneurs and circular economy activities in Rwanda, Nigeria and South Africa, while the Circular Electronics in China project is helping companies reduce and recycle 50% of e-waste by 2025.
  • Since launching in 2020, the Forum’s open innovation platform UpLink has welcomed over 40,000 users who are working on more than 30 challenges crowdsourcing solutions to the climate crisis.
  • More than 1000 partners from the private sector, government and civil society are working together through the 2030 Water Resources Group to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030. The group has facilitated close to $1 billion of financing for water-related programmes.

Contact us for more information on how to get involved.

3. Sustainable buildings

Buildings account for approximately 37% of the world’s direct and indirect CO2 emissions. Occupants have higher expectations than ever of these buildings – expectations that a building’s indoor air quality will support their well-being and use less energy. These are big expectations, but ones we’re ready to meet. Our Buildings Sustainability Manager solution helps building owners and operators meet these two pressing, yet often conflicting, objectives: reducing the environmental impact of buildings while optimizing indoor air quality.

All of these technologies are available today, but we need the public sector to innovate too. It took the world more than a century to carbonize, but we don’t have that time to decarbonize. We need to create the right environment to support a technology-led transition that is both timely and sustainable in the long-term.

* Calculations are estimates based on past and present sales of Honeywell Solstice HFO products from 2015 to 2022 (including forecasted estimates of current year sales), comparing the difference in GWP of those products to the HFCs and/or HCFCs they replaced. All GWP values are from “Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge University Press.

Comments

  1. Awesome post.

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