The telecoms sector isn't regarded as a major polluter, but that isn't stopping firms in that industry from doing what they can to help tackle climate change.
One such telecoms firm, Ericsson, took part in the European Business Summit held recently in Brussels -- a summit devoted this year to 'greening' the economy and reducing carbon emissions. One might wonder why a company that is neither a big polluter, nor present in the energy sector, would feel the need to participate in such a summit. Yet, Ericsson believes that information and communications technology (ICT) can help companies in other sectors reduce their carbon 'footprint'.
If you look at the total manmade carbon dioxide footprint in the world, explains HÃ¥kan Eriksson , the Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Ericsson, the ICT sector only contributes 2 per cent. If you look even further, the mobile telecom community contributes only 0.2 per cent, and that's giving a mobile phone to 3.3 billion people in the world -- so half the worldwide population has mobile communication to the carbon cost of 0.2 per cent ... We can do a lot [to reduce the global carbon footprint], and that is one message we'd like to bring across, without shying away from our own responsibility of course.
By responsibility, Eriksson means the steps his company has taken to reduce its own carbon footprint. The first generation mobile systems contributed 180 kilos of carbon per subscriber per year, but Ericcson has now reduced it to 25 kilos per year. At the same time, we now have mobile broadband with 15 megabytes per second, so you get a lot more with less of a carbon footprint. Eriksson says.
Eriksson suggests a few ways that other sectors can reduce their carbon footprint. It varies depending on who the player is. First of all, if you are just an enterprise, see what ICT solutions can do for you just to bring down costs - travel costs, other energy costs, and so on, and in the end it will also help the environment. Regulators and politicians should also make sure that they have collectivity and that they have the possibility to use these services.
Eriksson would also like to see the 49 billion euros in infrastructural funds - that Europe most likely intends for building things like railways - be spent instead on building ICT solutions, as they would have a much better payback when it comes to reducing carbon emissions and thereby also making a greener economy.
The most striking example of where information technology can contribute indirectly to reducing the carbon footprint is through the use of video conferencing as a substitute for travel. Travelling from London to New York has a cost of 1300 kilos [of C02]. Compare that to an annual mobile subscription, which is 25 kilos. By replacing travel, you can reduce the carbon footprint a lot.
Eriksson suggests we might at some point be able to use the IT sector in even more innovative ways. For instance, he imagines that it might be possible to schedule the way planes fly by computing power or optimal flight routes and wind resistance, in order to reduce the 1300 kilos of C02 emitted on a Transatlantic flight. That being said, he recognises that while reducing the carbon footprint of planes would be a helpful contribution, it can never be reduced to zero, which would imply never flying at all.