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AI is Critical in Fighting Climate Change say South African Bosses

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Luis Monzon
Luis Monzon
Journalist. Reach me at

According to a new report from the AI for the Planet Alliance, titled How AI Can Be a Powerful Tool in the Fight Against Climate Change and produced in collaboration with Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and BCG GAMMA, 88% of public- and private-sector leaders who oversee climate and AI topics in South Africa and Latin America believe that AI is a valuable asset in the fight against climate change – just above the 87% of leaders globally.

Climate change will have significant impacts on environmental, social, political, and economic systems around the world – and particularly in Africa and South Africa, which are disproportionately affected by the risks posed by climate change. The mitigation of climate change, along with adaptation and resilience, is therefore crucial.

Efforts to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 will be essential, as will efforts to prepare for the consequences of climate change and to minimise the resulting harm.

Applying advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to climate challenges provides a vital way to make meaningful change at this critical moment.

Methodology and Results

Based on survey results from over 1,000 executives with decision-making authority on AI or climate-change initiatives and 49 in South Africa, the report finds that roughly 40% of organisations worldwide can envision using AI for their own climate efforts (see the exhibit).

However, even among these experts, there is widespread agreement that significant barriers to broad adoption remain in place: 78% of respondents cite insufficient AI expertise as an obstacle to using AI in their climate change efforts, 77% cite limited availability of AI solutions as a roadblock, and 67% point to a lack of confidence in AI-related data and analysis.

South Africa and Latin America follow these trends, with 75% of leaders citing insufficient AI expertise as an obstacle, 71% citing limited availability of AI solutions and 57% noting a lack of confidence in AI-related data and analysis.

“AI’s unique ability to gather, complete, and interpret large, complex data sets means it can help stakeholders take a more informed and data-driven approach to combatting carbon emissions and addressing climate risks,” says Frederic Boutet, managing director and partner at BCG, Johannesburg and lead of BCG GAMMA South Africa.

“However, most existing AI-related climate solutions are scattered, tend to be difficult to access, and lack the resources to scale. These shortcomings need to change to derive the value AI can provide in tackling climate challenges.”

The Need for Meaningful Support

A multitude of critical uses exist for AI in the climate change arena, but any successful AI solution must be user-friendly and readily accessible. It must offer tangible benefits to the user and provide clear recommendations that are easy to act on.

AI solutions, therefore, need much more meaningful support, including access to capital investment, decision-makers, and trained practitioners.

“AI has strong promise to help solve the climate crisis, but AI alone is not enough. It depends on the will of decision makers to act and make necessary changes—supported in part by AI and other emerging technologies,” says Damien Gromier, founder of AI for the Planet and a co-author of the report.

AI for the Planet has invited all interested parties to participate in its call for solutions, with proposals in any stage of maturity (if ready for a first pilot, at a minimum) and from any sector, whether private, public, academic, or non-profit.

Support for each solution chosen will be tailored to its needs and may range from customised commercial or technical support to investor relationships and network development.

See detailed survey findings and information about the report, click here.

Edited by Luis Monzon
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