In the battle to reduce carbon emissions, Henry Derwent, CEO of the International Emissions Trading Association, said ICT is both a help and a hindrance.
The ICT industry contributes about 2% of the global emissions – about the same as a large country like the UK – and is expected to increase to 3% over the next couple of decades. He said the growth pattern is quite steep and similar to aviation.
In a panel discussion yesterday on what can ICT to do address climate change and sustainability at Telecom World in Geneva, Derwent said that while new products have lower carbon emissions, “you’re running up a downward escalator because more and more people want these products.”
GSMA president Rob Conway countered that the mobile industry accounts for just 0.4% of global CO2 emission and can be part of the solution to help people reduce energy usage. “If you’re not connected, you can never make the journey to reduce your energy consumption. So I see it quite a different way.”
Derwent agreed that ICTs can assist in the areas of energy management and transportation management.
Conway said that the mobile industry was an enabler of more than just access. It can enable people and industries to better control their energy consumption.
He pointed out that Europe today has 253 million electricity meters and 109 million gas meters. Each of those represented an opportunity to be able to monitor and control energy consumption, he said.
Conway asked the audience to imagine an app that shows your energy consumption and the cost of that consumption. “This gives people the tools to allow them to act and better control their energy consumption on a level that they can appreciate.”
Derwent argued that while giving people the means to monitor their energy use and assuming that that information will be acted upon, “it’s not being acted upon fast enough to have a significant reduction. The need to act now is enormous.”
Ericsson’s incoming CEO Hans Vestberg said that in the past there always has been a tradeoff between investment in ICT and energy consumption, but today the two went hand in hand.
With the “social highway” in place he said the ICT industry could reduce CO2 emissions by 15% by 2050 by using everything from smart grids and smart transport systems to e-education and e-health.