Advancing Life & Work

UN debate, Paris Agreement signing cap an Earth Day to remember

Happy Earth Day 2016, and greetings from New York City where history is unfolding today at the UN with more than 165 global leaders gathering to sign the Paris Agreement adopted at COP21 in December.

Global leaders gather at the UN to sign the historic Paris Agreement.Global leaders gather at the UN to sign the historic Paris Agreement.

The mood is jubilant but it is also a reminder that—as a global community—we have a tremendous amount of work ahead to put the Agreement into action and keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius.

Climate change is complex and there are no easy answers. Yet there are real and tangible steps we can—and must—take to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy.

This week Hewlett Packard Enterprise joined 110 other companies in welcoming the Paris Agreement and supporting U.S. lawmakers committed to making good on the promise to address climate change. At the heart of the U.S.’s climate change commitment is the Clean Power Plan, which will decrease emissions from our nation’s power plants by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

HPE joins other business leaders in supporting swift action this week, and I am proud of the steps HPE has already taken to drive this low carbon economy transition. And we’re just beginning.

Technology enables the Sustainable Development Goals

Meanwhile, back in NYC, I’m reflecting on a panel discussion I was fortunate to participate in yesterday afternoon at the UN High-level Thematic Debate on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, called “Harnessing the Data Revolution for SDGs: opportunities and challenges.”


One of the major themes that continues to replay in my mind is the cross-cutting capability of technology and innovation to not only enable sustainability, but implementation across all the SDGs.

We know that technology powers business across all sectors, making virtually every business an IT business. So just imagine what technology can do to accelerate progress for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Here at HPE we describe this transformative power of technology as the Idea Economy, or the immediate ability to turn an idea into a new product or service.

Technology enables people to act on data that matters

The data collected and made instantly available today is almost hard to comprehend. In fact, it’s estimated that 90% of all the data ever created by the human race has been created in the last three years. Yet, as several of the distinguished participants pointed out, much of the data collected is not useful. The real promise of data is in the insights—the ability to see and analyze trends in real time, and to quickly connect dots and expose risks so that people and leaders can make evidence-based decisions more efficiently.

One great example of this how Conservation International is using big data solutions to inform their conservation decisions. Armed with real-time insights enabled by HPE big data analytics technology, CI scientists can proactively respond to threats at they emerge.

Technology unites people and ideas to drive solutions

The challenges we face as a global community are too complex and interdependent to solve alone. But collectively, and through partnerships, we have the power to address issues at their core and drive true sustainable change.

We are witnessing the transformative problem-solving power of the global community in action with the Living Progress Challenge. Using the global reach of technology, we challenged people across the world to bring forward great ideas that address social issues through digitally enabled solutions. We were blown away by the response—the creativity and thoughtfulness of the ideas and proposals are awe-inspiring and further demonstrate that technology enables solutions across all the SDGs.

Technology creates opportunities that drive a more inclusive economy

As the panelists acknowledged, the global economy is not working for everyone. Those who can utilize the power of technology will be included in opportunities, while those who can’t will quickly lag behind. Accessibility and education is certainly central to that divide, but we also must ensure we have full visibility to those who are excluded. As one panelist said, “We must make the invisible, visible.”

This is where technology shines: Democratizing data collection. Enabling data to become insights. Insights that inform faster decisions. Decisions that drive solutions.

The SDGs have identified the priority opportunities. By uniting people, ideas and technology, we can drive sustainable solutions and create a more inclusive economy for all.

Lara Birkes
Former Chief Sustainability Officer and Vice President


About the Author


Lara Birkes is HPE’s former Chief Sustainability Officer and Vice President, Living Progress. Follow Lara @LaraBirkes