The United Nations’ COP27 climate summit to address the state of the planet and define future actions has now drawn to a close. So, what are this year’s takeaways?

Running between 6th and 18th November 2022, world leaders assembled in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, to discuss how, collectively, we can ensure that Earth remains a stable place to live for future generations. The big news was that, after being on the agenda for almost 30 years, this summit finally garnered an agreement from wealthy governments to set up a fund to assist developing countries with “loss and damage” that has come from the impacts of industrialization. Now the will has been established, the next stage is to work out how the money will be provided and distributed…

However, the goal of keeping rising temperatures caused by greenhouse gas emissions below 1.5 degrees Centigrade (pre-industrial level) is looking shaky at best, with no real progress on last year’s summit, and some countries unwilling to commit to a ‘phase out’ of fossil fuels but merely a ‘phase down’.

Despite the urgency of the situation, sometimes it seems the calls to action remain static from year to year, with little practical progress.

What’s this got to do with technology?

By now, we all know about tech hardware and how much e-waste old devices create. Very few old hardware components are recyclable and, with devices in use worldwide, the scale of waste is utterly mind-boggling. It’s definitely one for tech hardware manufacturers to work on.

The realities of data centers

And it may not be obvious, but something less ‘touchable’ – data – also impacts the environment. As much as we love the description ‘the cloud,’ the reality is that your company’s data is likely to be sitting on a server in an immense data center, potentially somewhere far, far away.

Data centers are notoriously energy-hungry places. Servers generate heat, so collections of them running together in a data center need to be cooled. Some data companies are trying to minimize these energy costs and impacts by building their centers in cold parts of the world or under the sea, but frankly, that’s not sustainable in the long term either.

What can employees do?

One thing regular businesses can do to slow the data center march is to minimize their amount of stored data. Cutting data loads so that servers are not full of files nobody is ever going to look at again may seem minimal but, if multiple companies do it, then it will reduce the need for excess energy to be produced and used to cool server farms unnecessarily.

Good data hygiene not only helps keep things streamlined but also helps us to be more organized and productive. For instance, do you really need to keep various versions of files several years old? Do you need thousands of old emails from years ago ‘just in case’? We all know we could be better at this kind of thing…

So, to support the aims of COP27, take a little time to review your work files and delete those old ones you just don’t need. Yes, it’s tiny, but collectively, it can help.

Further reading

The environmental impact of data storage is more than you think — and it’s only getting worse

Trends in data centre sustainability