Applying test, track and trace to combatting climate change

Conduit member Edward Jack, founder and CEO of Lytely, asks how the test, track and trace approach to combatting COVID-19 might be applied to accelerate the transition to a lower carbon economy.

As far back as early March, Dr Tedros Adhanom, Director-General of The World Health Organisation, advised that all nations should “test, test, test” to combat COVID-19. Without mass testing, Dr Tedros warned that countries were trying to “fight a fire blindfolded”. The imperative to test is driven by the two-week delay between contracting the virus and displaying the symptoms, and also to identify asymptomatic carriers who can transmit the virus but don’t display any symptoms. To complement broad testing programs, many countries have adopted app-based platforms that can be downloaded by their citizens to track and trace COVID-19 carriers and help illuminate this “invisible enemy”. In fact, countries that have successfully deployed track and trace apps are generally recognised as those having greater success in reducing infection rates and flatting the curve.

Similar to the early stages of COVID-19, the symptoms of climate change resulting from our consumption of goods and services are sometimes difficult to see. This is amplified by the fact that while most carbon emissions are attributable to the richer developed countries, those most vulnerable to extreme changes in weather patterns are located in the poorer developing world. This disconnect between cause and effect has made it almost impossible to hold individuals and organisations to account for their direct environmental impact, and difficult for governments to introduce the necessary policies required to combat climate change without fear of losing the next election. However, momentum for change is continuing to build.

Highlighting the carbon embedded in your lifestyle

In 2007, the UK’s Carbon Trust launched the first carbon certification and labelling system, which highlights whether a product’s carbon footprint has been measured and a commitment been made to reduce it, whether it is lower than the market dominant product, and whether the product is carbon neutral, i.e. offset through carbon offset credits. Since then, curiosity from climate-conscious consumers has grown, and according to a 2020 YouGov survey commissioned by the Carbon Trust, approximately two-thirds of consumers support carbon labelling on products. Companies are responding and have recognised that providing more detailed emissions information can enhance a brand’s reputation and lead to increased market share.

By applying lessons learnt from combatting COVID-19, can we not take this even further and “test” all components of consumption to help us illuminate the hidden carbon emissions embedded in our lifestyles and behavioural patterns?

A new platform to “test, track and trace” carbon emissions

Advances in technologies have led to more sophisticated ways to measure and highlight carbon emissions from goods and services, helping consumers to not only understand their absolute carbon footprint, but also provide ways to reduce and neutralise their environmental impact. One of these new technologies is Lytely, an interactive platform which automatically calculates a user’s individual carbon footprint and allows them to better understand their personal environmental impact. Lytely utilises data already collected by your smart phone to determine your mode of transportation and distance travelled for discrete journeys. Combined with carbon estimates provided by the UK Government*, the platform automatically provides users with an accurate estimate of their carbon footprint from transportation, one of the largest contributors of carbon emissions. Lytely can then provide suggestions of alternative modes of transport to reduce your carbon footprint. It can even help users achieve net zero through an integrated platform to access carbon offset credits.

*A carbon co-efficient, which estimates the CO2 equivalent emissions per passenger mile travelled for different modes of transport (e.g. petrol and diesel combustion engines, hybrids, EVs and planes)

Inspiring change

COVID-19 has cause unprecedented disruption to our way of life; however, it is only a glimpse of what is expected from extreme changes in weather patterns caused by climate change. We need to apply the lessons learnt in fighting this pandemic and embrace new technologies that will accelerate the transition to a lower carbon economy and flatten the climate curve. This should extend beyond technological advances such as renewable energy and electric vehicles, which will ultimately replace existing fossil-fuel reliant technologies, and also include platforms that will help us to identify the carbon emissions embedded in our lifestyles and inspire individuals to seek ways to reduce their environmental impact. Creating this demand for new, lower carbon alternatives will encourage companies to invest in R&D required to develop new products to satisfy this demand and help us achieve a more sustainable future.

Learn about Lytely

The beta version of Lytely is freely available on the App Store, and additional features and functionality will be added over time. Like many sustainability initiatives, Lytely is a work in progress, continuously evolving, and any and all feedback will be welcome. We are also in discussions with several enterprises about running trial employee and customer engagement programmes. Please get in touch if you’d like to offer feedback or learn more via info@treadlytely.com

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