The COP27 gathering in Egypt this year has been interesting to view from afar. Politicians were  grandstanding, officials and scientists issuing hand-wringing warnings and assorted industrialists used the occasion to promote their green credentials through exhibitions and presence at fringe events.

Curiously though, the big beasts of the automotive world seemed to have decided that it wasn’t the place to be. Maybe they have other, more immediate or pressing concerns, but I am surprised a few didn’t use the platform to give high profile to electrification and sustainability strategies.

The IEA estimates that transport as a whole accounts for 38% of end-use carbon emissions and road transport accounts for the majority of that. There’s a pretty positive story around how the transport industry – which we all depend on – is dealing with that. Progress in developing zero emission vehicles and getting them to market in volume is one obvious highlight.

There are also a whole bunch of less obvious sustainability initiatives going on of course, right across the automotive value chain from raw materials through manufacturing and to retail and the final product offering. Occasionally, something pops out from a less obvious source. For example, there are the huge data centres that companies operate these days. As data needs and volumes proliferate, the computing power and equipment to serve growing data processing needs gets greater, as do the energy requirements.

Volkswagen Group has announced its goal of making its data centre operations net carbon-neutral by 2027. To achieve this goal, the group has expanded its computing capacities at Green Mountain, a Norwegian operator of CO2-neutral data centres. By leaning on Norway, with its hydro-electric power strengths, VW can take a lot of CO2 out – it claims annual CO2 savings of 10,000 tons. Not bad going.

VW Group aims for carbon-neutral data centres by 2027

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Volvo Cars seemed to be one of the few car companies at COP27.

Volvo Cars used the occasion to has announce it is joining the Accelerating to Zero Coalition, which consists of a broad group of stakeholders committed to facilitating and increasing the pace of the transition to zero emission mobility.

The car company is calling for more climate action from governments. It’s not exactly turkeys voting for Christmas, but a cynic might say that the Scandinavian brand’s core values fit the COP27 vibe better than those of most car companies. I say kudos to them in wanting to address an elephant in the room.