Emerging Technologies

How technology and smart cities can help us overcome climate change

Hans Vestberg
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Verizon Communications
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World leaders have gathered in Paris with the main objective of concluding a new legally binding climate treaty. This must be a shared goal between governments, industry, civil society and NGOs in order to ensure that global warming remains within the limit of 2 degrees Celsius.  Encouraged by the success in September of the United Nation’s Global Goals, we must now do all that we can to achieve a smart climate agreement.

The science is no longer debated, and there is growing consensus around the need for action to minimize the negative effects of a changing climate. The world is looking for solutions and business leaders need to speak up.

No single government, organization or NGO has all the solutions to our climate challenges. Instead, the future, as set out in the post 2015 Development Agenda adopted by the UN General Assembly in September, will be much more about public private partnerships.

RTX1WFSVWithin this scope, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can be instrumental in transitioning the world to a low-carbon economy. It can contribute to both climate adaptation as well as mitigation, and there is finally a growing global awareness of the transformational potential that ICT brings, something for which I have long been an advocate.

Yet still, to realize this potential, we all must choose to use ICT solutions and to use them wisely. Our Ericsson Mobility Report shows that ICT could enable a 15% reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. That’s equal to more than the combined carbon footprint of the European Union and United States.

ICT can also transform value chains. Some 70% of electricity is wasted before it reaches the end consumer. Solutions like smart grids and smart meters offer the potential to deliver energy more efficiently to homes and buildings, dramatically improving energy efficiency and energy consumption. Smart grids also present a vital opening for intermittent renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, to be integrated within optimized grid systems. This is turn reduces peak demand and the need for more grid infrastructure, and can enable new approaches to energy delivery in areas previously not reachable, for example through microgrids.

Smart meters also improve our understanding of how much energy we consume so that citizens and building managers can actively make decisions to spread the energy load around, using electricity when it’s most economical and when there are low peak times on the grid.

And the same kind of logic can be applied to smart travel and transport solutions, enabling better route optimisation, fuel efficiency opportunities, and supporting shifts to low emission alternatives like electric vehicles.

Put all of this together, and we can get the smart sustainable cities of the future, that will stand at the forefront of this ICT-led transformation. Our partnership with UN-Habitat points out how sustainable urbanization can also be a tool for prosperity and resilience.

So whether it is individuals making behavioural choices (e.g., a video conference instead of flying to a meeting), or the transformation of entire industrial systems, the potential for rapid decarbonisation can be greatly accelerated with applied use of ICT.

It is time for business solutions and action that can start to address the massive challenges that we face. In support of a successful outcome and climate agreement during COP21, we have committed to the following initiatives:

In addition our company has climate targets and initiatives that are multi-year, where we aim not only to reduce our own carbon footprint but to adopt and develop solutions that can offset a minimum of twice our own footprint, for example, in the areas of smart grids and intelligent transport.  We also offer solutions with optimized energy performance to our customers.

Whether we are talking about a company, government, or civil society, at the end of the day, it all comes down to leadership. We need to embrace those industries that are willing to change and usher out those that think that it is ok to freely pollute at the expense of others. Global businesses in the future need to be much more anchored around principles of sustainable development and understanding what their own impacts and opportunities are.

Author: Hans Vestberg, President and CEO, Ericsson

Image: A man poses with an iPhone during Earth Hour in the center of Brasilia March 31, 2012. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

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