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Reflecting on the COP26 summit (Matt Jones)

As climate change continues to move up the agenda of not just policy makers, but also the wider public, many of us were glued to watching the events unfold at this year’s annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26.

On an almost daily basis we are presented with information on the day-to-day impact of climate change from various voices including those of young activists, to representatives from Pacific Islands, highlighting real life stories that show the detrimental effects associated with the shifts in temperatures and weather patterns across the globe.

As such, during COP26, world leaders came together to discuss how collectively, we can all work together to meet the objective of preventing temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees` Celsius from pre-industrial levels. Whilst it is evident some progress has been made – with several countries committing to decarbonise more quickly than previous years, as well as establishing a new agreement on ending deforestation by 2030, and new funding committed to help developing nations adapt to climate change – overall there is much still to do.

To achieve the global climate change objectives, every single person across the globe must play their part where they feasibly can. For instance, in the UK  sales of electric cars in the UK have jumped by 186 per cent to 108,000 in 2020, up from just 38,000 in 2019. This combined with changing attitudes towards flying internationally caused by lockdowns, means domestic, shorter, flights have taken precedence – which will have significant impact on the reduction of carbon emissions.

The challenge of e-waste

As it stands, electronic waste (e-waste) continues to grow year-on-year. United Nations data forecasts that e-waste will reach

74.7 million tons by 2030
, almost double the 2014 figure. Many electronic devices require rare earth minerals such as cobalt – used in batteries – to be mined; this has an adverse environmental impact, and additionally electronic devices may contain components such as mercury which are harmful to human health and the environment if not disposed of in an environmentally sound manner.

So how does the global progress towards action against climate change link to the dynamic world of payments? Well, traditional card payments in a face-to-face environment requires every organisation from large retailers to market stall traders to buy specific hardware in order to take payments from members of the public. In a traditional bricks-and-mortar environment POS (point of sale) machines have been integrated into POS systems as standard, and small traders have had either a standalone POS machine or an MPOS (mobile point of sale) device.

Up to this point in time, face-to-face payments have been based on merchants purchasing hardware specifically to take payments; these payment devices often form part of complex global supply chain, which may have a significant increase to a carbon footprint. In addition, many feature printers use thermal paper which can be hazardous to the environment.

Cue SoftPOS (Software Point of Sale). The revolutionary software-based technology, sometimes known as Tap on Phone, entirely does away with the need for additional specific hardware in order for a business to take payments and provide digital receipts – further reducing unnecessary and harmful waste.

Consumer devices as a payments terminal

Over the past few years, new standards have been developed by the PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC). PCI SSC set the global security standards for card payments, and these new standards have allowed face-to-face payment capability to move from specialised payment devices to standard consumer devices.

In 2022, we expect a new standard to be released to the market, known as MPoC – Mobile Payments on Consumer off the Shelf (COTS) Devices. The terminology “off the shelf” here indicates that the payment device is simply a a regular smart phone, which can be purchased by any consumer or merchant and transformed into a payment POS device by downloading software from the relevant app store.

The MPoC standard will allow for a greater breadth and depth of PCI Certifiable SoftPOS solutions to enter the market, and further grow the reach of these solutions. In the meantime, the existing CPoC standard (Contactless Payments on Consumer off the Shelf Devices), is growing in popularity month on month as banks, merchants and payment integrators are looking to deploy solutions that do not require management of a large inventory of payment specific POS hardware.

The road aheadSub Headline needed

Overall, if we are to meet our target of net zero emissions by 2050 (agreed to by many countries) and prevent temperatures rising by no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, action must be taken to transition to a world with more mobile POS acceptance than ever before. Traditional POS terminals will become less and less common, and merchants accepting payments via standard smartphones and tablets will become the norm in many sectors/use cases in the years ahead.

As the payments industry continues to evolve at pace, the need for payment specific hardware will diminish, and we will potentially be able to contribute to reducing electronic waste. These days with most phone manufacturers having authorised formal recycling programmes, when we do upgrade our mobile COTS devices, everyone can do their part in recycling old unused devices appropriately, and be proud of the positive environmental impact we can collectively make.

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