Vestager: Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be a crucial tool in the battle against climate change


Margrethe Vestager, EU Commissioner for Competition, at the Web Summit stage. Photo credit: Piaras Ó Mídheach / Web Summit via Sportsfile.

By Anders Lorenzen, in Lisbon

The European Union’s (EU) Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, has in recent years become world-famous in her drive to deliver the biggest fines to the world’s largest tech giants to date. 

Last week she delivered the closing speech at one of the world’s largest tech gatherings, the Web Summit held annually in Lisbon, Portugal.

Commissioner Vestager was keen to underline that she is pro-technology but that it has to be used democratically, and if it is done correctly it can have enormous potential. She explained that she sees no limit to the possibilities of artificial intelligence (AI), and to the support, it can give to what we want to do as humans

This also applies to tackling the climate crisis. The Danish Commissioner stated: “Take climate change. I think we can be much more effective in fighting climate change if we use AI”.

Vestager did not give any examples as to which AI technologies she was referring to.          But already several AI climate solutions have been developed, for example, using the AI technology for climate modelling which can thus become even more accurate.

AI can also help us get a better understanding of where our emissions are coming from.    An AI tool already in use can automate the analysis of images of power plants to get regular updates on emissions. It also introduces new ways to measure a plant’s impact, by crunching numbers of nearby infrastructure and electricity use. 

Another AI tool also helps us prepare for the possible impacts of climate change. Researchers from Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (MILA), Microsoft, and ConscientAI Labs used GANs, a type of AI, to simulate what homes might look like after being damaged by rising sea levels and more intense storms.

Vestager has been a strong advocate for tackling climate change, and she has previously clamped down on companies using unfair tactics to slow progress on climate action. She is not afraid to hand out record-breaking fines to tech companies who do not play by the book. But she is also keen to promote the idea that if we use the technologies available to us correctly, they can play a key role in fighting climate change.

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