One hamburger leaves the same carbon footprint as one full year of mobile services. When it comes to living a more carbon-friendly life, the information and communications technology (ICT) industry is part of the solution.
According to World Resources Institute (WRI), living sustainably on earth requires humans to modify their behavior so that each person emits no more than two tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year.
How much can the earth withstand?
“Two tons of CO2 per capita per year. That’s what the earth can stand. To get to this point, you need the information and communications technology (ICT) industry and the solutions that we provide to live a more virtual life,” said Jan Kristensen, Director Climate Change, Telenor Group.
Most people associate living a more sustainable life with doing less of the things they typically do, such as driving, flying, eating meat, using paper. But when it comes to mobile technology, being more connected is actually a contributing factor to a more climate-conscious way of living.
One year of mobile services in Sweden = one liter of diesel fuel
In 2011, Telenor took at look at the CO2 footprint per mobile subscription and compared it with the total CO2 emissions per capita. In Sweden, for example, each mobile subscription resulted in 2.3 kg of CO2 as compared to the nation’s average of 5.3 tons per person.
The ICT industry is part of the solution
“One year of mobile service for one person in Sweden has the same environmental impact as the production and sale of one hamburger or one liter of diesel. This shows that services provided by the ICT industry are insignificant when compared to the total carbon footprint per capita for one full year of life. The ICT industry is not the problem; it’s part of the solution,” said Kristensen.
Kristensen explained that making more conscious decisions about using virtual solutions, such as video conferences instead of an airplane trips, can lead to a more sustainable life. New services such as mobile health, mobile financial services and machine-to-machine (M2M) technology, are emerging solutions that make choosing the virtual life easier and more realistic.
“Mobile health solutions that enable the elderly to live in their own homes longer, mobile financial services that eliminate trips to the bank, and the creation of the virtual office to eliminate your daily drive to work are all solutions that can help us achieve the two ton per person goal for sustainable living,” explained Kristensen.
Becoming a more efficient industry-wide
Though the ICT industry is an enabler of solutions that lead to more sustainable living, that doesn’t mean that the industry is off the hook in terms of improving the efficiencies in their own operations. Telenor has set the ambitious target to reduce the internal carbon intensity of its operations by 40 percent by 2017, as compared to 2008. Just over three years later, the commitments made in 2008 are holding strong in Telenor Group and the company is on its way to meeting the targets.
“When we look at our CO2 emissions in 2011, we see that our operational efficiencies are now producing results. In many of our operations, this is due to the network upgrades that result in less energy consumption,” said Kristensen. “If we look at the CO2 output in our operations in terms of revenue, we see that we have achieved 30 percent of our 2017 targets. We are on the right track.”
Read Telenor’s latest available figures on CO2 emissions.
ICT enables low carbon living
“The telecom industry’s CO2 footprint is set to grow five percent annually, no matter our best efficiency efforts. This is simply due to the natural expansion of the industry, as more and more people get connected. But according to the SMART 2020 industry report, the natural increase of our industry’s CO2 footprint is countered by our ability to help other sectors reduce their emissions,” said Kristensen.
“SMART 2020: enabling the low carbon economy in the information age” is a report that was published by The Climate Group and the Global Sustainability Initiative in 2008. It states that by applying ICT solutions to global infrastructure and industry, there are far greater opportunities for emissions savings. The ICT sector could contribute to a reduction of global CO2 emissions by as much as 15 percent by 2020.
The road to a more sustainable way of life
“The SMART 2020 report is confirmation that companies such as Telenor have a significant role to play in creating a future low carbon society and helping the citizens of the world to live more sustainability within their two ton per person per year limits,” concluded Kristensen. “You may have to give up a few hamburgers and a few trips in the car, but one thing that you can use more of without hurting our earth is ICT services.”
Read more about what Telenor is doing to fight climate change in the Sustainability Report.