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The next 15 years are critical for both the global economy and our climate

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“The New Climate Economy report refutes the idea that we must choose between fighting climate change or growing the world’s economy. That is a false dilemma.”

The quote above is from the former President of Mexico, Felipe Calderón, and can be found in a new report called The New Climate Economy. Recently the Swedish government invited different stakeholders to a meeting about the report, together with two government ministers – Åsa Romson, Minister for Climate and the Environment, and Kristina Persson, Minister for Strategic Development and Nordic Cooperation.

The choices made over the next 15 years will either lock in a future with growing pollution and worsening climate change or help move the world onto a more sustainable, low-carbon development path. Many actions to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions yield multiple benefits, such as improving air quality. Health damage from air pollution averaged over 4 percent of GDP in the 15 largest CO2 emitting countries already in 2010. Measures that reduce GHGs and air pollution together in these countries would yield health benefits of USD 73 per tonne of CO2 abated.

To address climate and development issues such as this one, a Global Commission on the Economy and Climate was set up in 2013 by the governments of seven countries – Colombia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Norway, South Korea, Sweden and the United Kingdom – in order to help governments, businesses and society make better-informed decisions on how to achieve economic prosperity and development while also addressing climate change.

The next 15 years will be critical, as the global economy undergoes a deep structural transformation. It will not be “business as usual”. The global economy will grow by more than half, a billion more people will come to live in cities, and rapid technological advance will continue to change businesses and lives. Around USD 90 trillion is likely to be invested in infrastructure in the world’s urban, land
use and energy systems. How these changes are managed will shape future patterns of growth, productivity and living standards. The next 15 years of investment will also determine the
future of the world’s climate system.

From Ericsson, we gave input that ICT can be one of the most important technologies to reduce societal emissions as well as increase economic growth. In the SMARTer2020 report from Global e-Sustainability Intiative (GeSI), the potential to reduce societal carbon emissions in the world is 16.5 percent of total emissions, primarily in the following industry areas: power, transportation, construction, agriculture and land use, and consumer and service.

Both broadband availability and speed are also strong economic drivers globally. A study conducted jointly in 2011 in 33 OECD countries by Ericsson, Arthur D. Little and Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden quantifies the isolated impact of broadband speed. It showed that doubling the broadband speed for an economy increases GDP by 0.3 percent. In the OECD region alone, 0.3 percent GDP growth is equivalent to USD 126 billion.

We also engaged in a more detailed discussion of how ICT can help to reduce the use of material resources, hence combating the resource scarcity that is evident in different parts of the world and that will only increase if not addressed. One example of de-materialization is the music industry. Music has evolved largely into a service and not a physical product, which reduces both the need to produce and transport products, as well as increasing the opportunity to distribute and include more people. Another example is the development of massive open online courses (MOOC), which are aimed at unlimited participation in higher education and training and can be openly accessed via the web

One of the most key issues is for policy makers and national and city planners is to consider ICT as a basic infrastructure that needs to be integrated into the different infrastructure-related decision making processes. This will ensure that ICT can be an enabling technology and support both reduced carbon emissions as well as economic growth.

Written by Matilda Gennvi-Gustafsson

Matilda's early career was in the area of environmental and production management in the food industry. Since joining Ericsson in 1997 she has focused on sustainability, business and change management. From 2009-17 she served as a sustainability director at group level focusing on strategy, climate action and how ICT can accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). As of 2018 she works within the Internet of Things (IoT) unit, integrating business and doing good.

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