Climate change and net zero

The climate crisis is the big issue of our times. But how can data be used to get to net zero in time?

One issue is who has datasets that might be useful. The UK and EU are more likely to have useful datasets than countries in the developing world; which makes comparisons between them difficult. Even in the EU, a lot of data will be resticted. Only a few countries, like France, are pushing ahead with open data sets that enable communities to push for change.

Even then, no one dataset will do everything. It might provide an answer to a simple question, like what air quality is like in Wolverhampton. But it won’t provide an answer to a complex question. And climate change is the ultimate complex question. Plus, communities need to know what is available if they are going to use data to apply pressure for change.

Icebreaker One
Session leader Julia Higginbottom, community and events manager at Icebreaker One, talked about its missiong to create a web of net-zero data. It is looking to link finance, industry and environment data, within a framework that creates trust in its collection, governance and use.

Now, Julia said, Icebreaker One is keen to engage the open data community, to take its work to the next stage. “We have done all this work behind the scenes, so could we do a call and think through what the challenges are, and how we get people to use the data,” she said. “Also, to connect their stories, and see themselves reflected, because that is more likely to get it used.”

Session participants agreed that technical issues around the publication and linking of data are important. But they argued communities will need to add a curation layer, to make it accessible and easy to research. Maps were suggested as a great way to get people to engage.

Julia said this was exactly the insight she was looking for. “We have done the technical work, but now we need to work out how to get the information out. It might be telling stories. It might be building a community around what we are about, and equipping people with new skills,” she said.

She also argued there are reasons for optimism. Government attention is fixed on net zero. Public bodies are being required to report on progress. The Open Net Zero Standard framework is in place for them to do it. Banks are coming on board. Project Perseus, an initiative to simplify SME reporting, is about to come on stream. “We’re not trying to do everything. We’re not trying to solve the commercial problem. We’re not trying to create new standards. We’re just trying to unlock the power of open data. Because that will get us towards net zero.”