In December 2019, Icebreaker One was presented at COP25 in Madrid. In the four years since then, we’ve undertaken projects spanning the fields of energy, finance and water. Central to these projects is one common and integral thread; that the discovery, access and use of data can markedly accelerate our journey to net zero. 

Now, in the midst of COP28, as we await the first Global Stocktake of Paris Agreement emissions targets, our attention is fixed firmly on world leaders, in the hope that real tangible action will be taken.

Navigating a water-stressed world 

The discussion of water in reaching our net-zero goals is a timely one, not least because COP28 is taking place in one of the most water-stressed regions in the world. Indeed, high on the agenda this year is a focus on conserving and restoring freshwater ecosystems, enhancing urban water resilience, and bolstering water-resilient food systems.

This is underscored by the fact that the water sector constitutes approximately 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with an investment gap that, according to the World Resources Institute, would require $1.04 trillion annually from 2015 to 2030 to fill.

Icebreaker One’s role

There are a number of data-driven levers we could pull on to help curb emissions in the water sector. But, to really understand its impact, it’s first useful to understand the broad spectrum of data at play. This ranges from data on drinking water quality, which is open and can be accessed by anyone. To data on customer’s financial details, which is closed and can only be accessed internally. In between these, we have data on water network maps which is limited to named access only. 

There’s a clear variability in levels of accessibility when it comes to water data, and Icebreaker One has a firm grasp on this. As part of the Stream initiative, we’ve been working to establish a widely accessible open data platform along with the associated governance and data standards that underpin it. The potential benefits of this are far reaching, unlocking water data for customers, society, and the environment. 

By making UK water industry data openly available, backed by clear data licences and data standards, the Stream initiative will aid academics, innovators and campaigning organisations to analyse and better understand the relationship between water use and climate change. This can then be translated into tools and initiatives to support consumers and businesses to reduce water consumption, minimise water wasted through leaks, and identify and implement solutions for water pollution’. Ceri Stanaway, User needs Researcher, on the Stream programme

Unlocking water data

Making water industry data openly available can improve transparency in the sector, which can help spur on more data-driven decision making. Unpacking this; if all stakeholders across the water sector’s ecosystem can access the necessary data required to understand the potential challenges they face, then new and innovative solutions of ways of working can come to the fore. Collaboration will also be encouraged as policy makers, regulators and businesses gain a better understanding of their shared challenges. 

Collaboration is also a critical component when creating a standardised approach to reporting greenhouse gas emissions in the water sector. Data on greenhouse gas emissions can vary both in terms of availability and accessibility, which can give rise to unreliable emissions targets that are difficult to act upon. More than this, it can lead to organisations underestimating their carbon impact. A standardised approach will help to address these variabilities, pushing the sector to more accurately measure its emissions and achieve its net-zero targets. 

All eyes on COP28

Now, as the UN pushes for more significant emission cuts by 2030, to align with the Paris Agreement, the spotlight intensifies on COP28. We hope as the conference unfolds, more attention will be given to decarbonising the water sector. But more importantly, we hope to see a growing recognition that data is the tool to get us there. The realisation of these net-zero ambitions are not achievable without a tangible blueprint. Icebreaker One and the Stream consortium certainly understand this, with the Stream Open Data Platform (Minimum Viable Product) to launch on 18th December 2023.