Skip to the content

Follow us @UKAuthority

Is data the golden thread to decarbonisation?


Guest Author


Data is often hailed as one of the most valuable resources on earth. The role data plays to help combat climate change and cut carbon emissions cannot be underestimated.

Green icons over hills with wind turbines

The COP26 climate summit is a make or break moment in the fight to reduce global warming. Prime Minister Boris Johnson went so far as to call it a “turning point for humanity”. 

The primary difference between COP26 and its predecessors is the broader acceptance that the world is facing a climate crisis. The frequency and severity of wildfires, floods, storms, and droughts are visible signs indicating action is needed now, and that the next 10 years will be crucial.

If global climate pledges are not met, it could lead to a rise in greenhouse gas emissions of nearly a fifth by 2030. The world’s nations must increase their ambitions. Only a 45% reduction in emissions by that date, and a further move to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, can stabilise temperatures at the necessary level.

But out of every crisis comes opportunity. Reshaping the global energy markets in a more renewable and sustainable direction represents the biggest opportunity for change. Additional green opportunities include electric vehicles, choosing better packaging, reducing the use of single-use plastics, buying locally, minimising the impact of transport on the environment, reducing flights, and improving energy efficiency across our built environment. 

The golden thread running through all these areas is data. It fuels the advanced technology needed to monitor, predict and reduce emissions.

Aggregating and analysing data supports evidence based decision making. For example, advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) can help you set and achieve emissions targets that yield concrete results. 

The AI potential

AI and machine learning can help reveal deep insights into your carbon footprint. With greater visibility and understanding it is easier to identify cost-saving ways to accelerate sustainable transformation. 

From baselining current emissions to tracking progress, right through to carbon accounting and supply chain transparency, AI powered data analytics provide insights and predictions about how to improve processes and become more fuel-efficient. 

AI can also help reduce waste in the food industry by forecasting consumer demand more accurately or performing quality control. AI technologies can also be used to help optimise energy management. For instance, using sensors can prevent energy wastage by ensuring lighting is only used when needed.

Fuel efficiency

Within our National Fuels agreement, suppliers provide data on fuel volumes on a monthly basis, which will help fleet managers plan as you work towards your carbon net zero goals. 

Consumption volumes will vary with seasonal demand. The data you receive from suppliers will help you manage demand and reduce fuel consumption. You can also choose biofuel to help work towards carbon net zero goals.

Telematics on vehicle data

Simple telematics devices provide a wealth of data, not just on journeys made but also on driver style. For instance, data on fuel consumption, vehicle tracking and driver behaviour can be used to identify safety improvements and cost reductions based on the whole life cost of vehicles in your fleet. 

Analysed data can support evidence based decision making on your vehicles’ profile and policies. Data insights can also lead to better driving habits, rooting out behaviour that negatively impacts your footprint. As an example, harsh acceleration and braking not only wastes fuel, it also releases more pollutants into the atmosphere from the tailpipe and tyre particles. 

Through the Vehicle Telematics agreement suppliers can offer products and services to enable you to capture and analyse vehicle data that can improve your fleet operations, inform your fleet policy and identify opportunities to transition to a cleaner, greener fleet.

Greener journey profiles

Analysing your journey and trip profiles, amalgamating journeys through overnight stays, substituting for more sustainable transport types or even eliminating the need to travel can help you to reach your carbon net zero goals.

Our Public Sector Travel and Venue Solutions agreement provides you with online and offline booking services for all your travel, venue hire and accommodation needs which can facilitate your transition to a more sustainable travel plan. 

This agreement gives you access to travel management solutions covering a range of transport methods so that you can find a solution that’s right for you. 

Innovative tech

Traffic management equipment is a crucial enabler to establish and maintain clean air zones. It includes number plate recognition, vehicle charging infrastructure, and traffic monitoring CCTV systems. 

Roadside furniture such as signs, traffic lights, and street lighting can extend your green impact through environmental monitoring of air quality, sustainable street lighting and back office systems.

The built environment

Crunching data enables predictive forecasting in other ways. City planners and building owners can use the data collected from multiple sources to create digital simulations of physical assets, systems, buildings or even an entire city. 

These virtual computer models, also known as digital twins, are emerging as a powerful tool to cut emissions. For example, by aggregating and analysing data from sources such as heating, air conditioning, employee schedules, traffic flow patterns, a digital twin enables users to monitor and distribute energy resources better. 

You can further enhance your transition to digitisation and communicate with your customers and staff via SMS, email or other digital channels while removing energy-inefficient printers and mailing equipment from your estate and reducing road transport. Our Hybrid Mail, Digital and Transformational Communications section of our agreement can help you improve efficiency and lower your carbon emissions.

Data is everything

The question at the start was, is data the golden thread? The answer is yes. 

In business, data is everything. It influences how you market or sell, and to whom; it can inform how you manage and work. It is the same in the world of decarbonisation. 

Making clear, data driven decisions on plans to decarbonise specific areas is dependent on having the quality data you can trust. Whether you are weighing up options to change a road layout to increase traffic flow and avoid idling vehicles or working out optimum heating patterns, the impact of the actions you are planning will only work if the data can corroborate the results. 

Data is not just a set of numbers on a spreadsheet; it is the lifeblood of a decision. It is how fundamental long term changes can come about and help all of us hit the targets we have for making this a better, cleaner planet.

Many of our frameworks and agreements allow you to use data and technology across a range of areas. Take a look at our agreements to discover the full range of possibilities and help lower your emissions today.  

Our carbon net zero cityscape interactive guide is designed to help you reduce your carbon footprint and navigate your way to carbon net zero. You can download the guide here.

This article was first published on the Crown Commercial Service website.

Image from iStock, Metamorworks

Register For Alerts

Keep informed - Get the latest news about the use of technology, digital & data for the public good in your inbox from UKAuthority.