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© Capgemini

There are many dangers out there, and climate change is intensifying the situation even more. In just the last 20 years alone, there were 7,348 large-scale catastrophic events recorded around the world, claiming the lives of 1.23 million people, affecting the lives of 4.2 billion others and causing financial losses of roughly USD 2.97 trillion. Since climate change is continuing – the highest CO2 levels in history were recorded in 2019 – large corporations have an increasing responsibility to act. That is why Capgemini, a management and IT consultancy, wanted to find out how much artificial intelligence (AI) could help. The study “Climate AI: How artificial intelligence can power your climate action strategy” was carried out by the Capgemini Research Institute in collaboration with sustainability start-up “right.based on science”. It surveyed 800 managers and 300 experts from companies in the automotive, manufacturing, energy, utility, consumer goods and retail sectors and conducted extended interviews with more than 40 technology and sustainability experts.

One finding of the detailed study was that AI applications have already in the last two years helped companies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 13% and improve their energy efficiency by 11%. This leads to the conclusion that AI applications could play a significant role in helping businesses achieve their emission reduction targets under the Paris Agreement by 2030. Retail stands to reach up to 45% of the set goal, wholesale 11%. However, the study also finds that integration into existing business models, products and services has proved to be difficult. While 67% of companies have declared climate protection as a strategic priority, only 13% have successfully combined their ideas with AI and made headway with solutions on a large scale.

Despite the considerable potential that AI has for climate protection, it is still used relatively infrequently for it. That is because more than eight of ten companies spend less than 5% of their climate protection investments on AI and only few employees possess the necessary expertise. In addition, the study found that 38% of all organisations had wound back plans to invest in climate protection initiatives during the current pandemic.

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