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COP28: Microsoft’s Naim Yazbeck on leveraging data, tech to drive sustainability

COP28: Microsoft’s Naim Yazbeck on leveraging data, tech to drive sustainability

Microsoft UAE’s general manager shares how UAE organisations can embrace ‘sustainable’ possibilities presented by technology and tells us about the company’s participation at COP28

Neesha Salian
Naim Yazbeck, GM Microsoft UAE

Organisations across the UAE are increasingly demonstrating their commitment to sustainability in line with the sustainability goals put forth by the UAE leadership. Give us an overview of how Microsoft is supporting these organisations.  

Organisations across the UAE are indeed becoming increasingly committed to sustainability, and embracing the initiatives championed by the UAE’s visionary leadership. Microsoft is actively supporting these organisations across the public and private sectors in their sustainability endeavours by providing them with a comprehensive portfolio of products, solutions, and the expertise needed to properly leverage them.

One of our key offerings is the Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability, a suite of cloud-based tools and services specifically designed to help companies measure, manage, and reduce their environmental impact. This suite includes solutions such as Microsoft Sustainability Manager, which provides organisations with a unified view of their carbon emissions data so that they can monitor and manage their environmental sustainability journey.

Emirates NBD, a leading bank in the region, is utilising Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability, to help measure its carbon impact and advance its climate goals; while e& enterprise is leveraging Microsoft Sustainability Manager to more accurately report emissions, and continually test and optimise its carbon reduction strategies. In addition, Enova leveraged the power of the intelligent Microsoft Cloud to save 320 million kWh of energy, 5 million cubic metres of water, and 210,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

We are also empowering companies to meet their carbon reduction goals through our Environmental Credit Service which provides a common infrastructure and shared standards for organisations that want high-quality carbon offset credits. These are just a few examples of the many solutions that Microsoft offers to help organisations develop and implement their sustainability strategies, while also empowering them to expand their existing sustainability goals and track their progress over time.

We have heard a lot about the role of data in helping accelerate progress toward goals such as carbon neutrality and net zero. Why is data important and how is Microsoft ensuring that organisations have not only the right data but also the power of analytics to help achieve their goals?

Data plays a crucial role in helping organisations achieve their sustainability goals, such as carbon neutrality and net zero. By collecting, analysing, and working with actionable data, organisations not only gain a comprehensive understanding of their environmental impact but are also able to identify opportunities for improvement. In addition, they are also able to effectively track their progress toward their sustainability goals and prepare updates and reports to be shared with their stakeholders. This helps promote transparency and demonstrate accountability while fostering trust among their customers.

Microsoft offers several tools and solutions to help organisations harness the power of data and analytics in their sustainability efforts. The Emissions Impact Dashboard for Microsoft 365, for instance, allows our customers to calculate the emissions associated with their use of Microsoft products like Teams, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business. It also allows them to calculate emissions savings when they move workloads to the cloud. In the UAE, Emirates NBD is already leveraging the solution to generate insights into the bank’s carbon emissions.

Recently, we also announced the launch of Azure Data Manager for Energy, an enterprise-grade OSDU Data Platform solution specifically designed for energy companies to gain actionable insights, improve their operational efficiency, and accelerate time to market.

Microsoft has great placed emphasis on AI and its role in not only enhancing productivity but also its role in the fight against climate change. Tell us more about it and the solutions you are showcasing at COP28.

Absolutely. Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability, on display at the event, empowers organisations to accelerate sustainability progress and business growth by bringing together a growing set of ESG (environmental, social, and governance) capabilities from Microsoft and our global ecosystem of partners.

Together, we’re enabling organisations to gain the transparency and insights they need to manage their environmental footprint, embed sustainability through their organisation and value chain, and make strategic business investments that drive value.  Alongside this, we will also be showcasing how our AI for Earth programme is working to place cloud and AI technologies into the hands of those who are developing innovative solutions to address various environmental challenges.

We believe that AI is a vital tool to help accelerate the deployment of existing sustainability solutions as well as the development of new ones in a manner that is faster, cheaper, and better. This is attributed to the technology’s ability to discern patterns, predict outcomes, and optimise performance in systems that are too complex for traditional analytic methods. AI also can accelerate the discovery and development of solutions such as low-carbon materials, renewable energy production and storage, and climate-resilient crops.

Lastly, you have the ability of AI to empower the sustainability workforce of the future by enabling targeted training and assistance, while amplifying the present efforts of sustainability professionals. We are highlighting these insights at COP28, as well as our five-point playbook for enabling AI to accelerate sustainability.

When you are dealing with challenges that have such far-reaching global impact, it is safe to say that solutions do not only come from one sector. Startups have been hailed in recent years as playing a key role in climate action. How is Microsoft supporting these startups not just in the UAE, but across the region?

Startups play a crucial and multifaceted role in the fight against climate change. I would say that they are often at the forefront of developing innovative solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, enhance energy efficiency, and promote sustainable practices. Not only that, but their agility in responding to emerging environmental issues and adapting their business models to address specific challenges is what makes them invaluable.

Microsoft recognises the pivotal role of startups in driving climate action and is actively supporting these innovative ventures globally and across the UAE. For example, we have established a $1bn Climate Innovation Fund dedicated to investing in cutting-edge climate technologies developed by startups. And, the Microsoft for Startups programme provides startups with access to a suite of cloud-based resources, including Azure credits, technical support, and mentorship opportunities to help them build and scale their climate solutions.

As part of our commitment to empowering sustainability and climate tech startups, we’ve brought 10 of the world’s most promising startups to COP28 to showcase how their innovative solutions are tackling the most pressing challenges resulting from climate change. These startups form part of the 4th Cohort of the GrowthX Accelerator programme, which was launched in 2021 as part of our ongoing collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Investment Office to empower growth-stage B2B startups ranging primarily from the Seed to Series A stage.

What are some of Microsoft’s objectives for your participation at COP28? And how does your participation align with your global sustainability commitments?

We see COP28 as a very important opportunity for us to demonstrate our commitment to partnership, dialogue, and innovation for a brighter tomorrow. We have been actively collaborating with various governments, organisations, and environmental groups, not just in the UAE, but around the world to advance climate action through the development of highly scalable sustainability solutions.

We look forward to leveraging the event as a platform to showcase our latest sustainability solutions, engage in discussions on climate policy, and collaborate with other stakeholders to advance environmental goals.

COP28 also presents us with an invaluable opportunity to learn from our partners, environmental experts, and sustainability leaders so that we can identify new opportunities where technology to make a difference.

Our participation, of course, is aligned with our commitment to sustainability and our pledges to be carbon-negative by 2030, water-positive by 2030, and zero waste by 2030. We are sharing our learnings and our progress towards these goals during our participation at COP28.

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