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COP 23: Temperature is rising again – joint action is crucial

Last week I attended COP 23, the international climate meeting convened annually by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). One of the main concerns this year was the fact that the latest studies show that after several years of stable, flat development, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions recently rose by 2 percentage points.

The impact of this news is increased pressure on the UNFCCC member states to secure the two-degree goal set in the Paris agreement. The main focus areas where reductions are both necessary and possible are the energy, transport, agriculture and forestry sectors. For the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector this new evidence of rising temperature will most likely mean that we will see an increased demand from both authorities and investors for us to be able to show how we are lowering and/or stabilizing our industry’s GHG emissions.

Investments to spur transition to low carbon economy
A number of important announcements were made during COP 23, including new funds to support the poorest and most vulnerable, whose plight has been brought into sharp perspective by this year’s extreme weather. One example is the international bank HSBC, which pledged to mobilize USD 100 billion in sustainable financing and investment to support the transition to a low carbon economy and to spur green growth worldwide.

Investments in low carbon technologies are key to achieving the goal set in Paris for limiting the rise in temperature well below 2 degrees Celsius and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. HSBC has promised to accelerate its support for clean energy and lower carbon technologies by discontinuing the financing of new coal-fired power plants in developing markets and of thermal coal mines globally. The bank supports projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

Saying goodbye to coal and hello to the oceans
An alliance of more than 20 countries chose COP 23 as the forum to announce their plans to phase out traditional coal power, and several businesses and non-government partners made commitments to focus on powering their operations without coal. Fiji and Sweden announced they will co-chair the newly established Ocean Pathway Partnership to encourage the climate negotiations process to address the relationship between climate change and the oceans, which is expected to increase focus on water-wise management and measurements of water.

Ericsson at COP 23 in Bonn
For myself COP 23 means meetings with many different stakeholders, partners and customers. Within the negotiation area, for example, I discussed climate action with the World Economic Forum, British Telecom (BT) and Microsoft, as well as listening to the latest insights from the research community. I also talked with representatives from the UN about how business can be integrated more into the COP dialogues since business represents one part of the solution to the climate challenge.

Business Sweden hosted an event during COP 23 called “Sustainable Urban Development by Sweden” where the keynote address was held by Swedish Environment Minister Karolina Skog. My colleague Jo Arne Lindstadt, Global Director Smart Sustainable Cities, had the opportunity to share Ericsson’s perspective on the opportunities ICT can bring for sustainable urban development during discussions with representatives of other major companies with roots in Sweden, including Scania and ABB.

The Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) held its Climate Day event at Deutsche Telekom (DT) headquarters during COP 23, where Ericsson exhibited several products and solutions, including urban transport solutions, our Connected Mangroves solution and a demonstration of how 5G can enhance transportation, for example. Together with the University of Eindhoven we also presented this year’s cruiser-class World Solar Challenge winning car. We were honored to be the only supplier at the exhibition of solutions in DT’s headquarters marketplace area, where the solar car was parked in the main entrance.

Ericsson’s commitment to lead climate action
On Climate Day I participated in a panel called “Is ICT’s role and impact a curse or a blessing?” I emphasized the role of ICT as an enabler to reduce carbon emissions in sectors such as transportation, and what IoT can do in terms of increasing measurements to optimize different systems, from manufacturing to mangroves. If ICT is used with the intention to reduce greenhouse gases, it is possible to reduce them by as much as 15% by 2030, using smart technologies for energy, transport, manufacturing, services and agriculture. So ICT is definitely a blessing!

Ericsson has continuously been a leader in reducing emissions from our own operations. We are continuing on that path and have set a five-year target to reduce our own emissions by 30% in 2020. We know, however, that our largest footprint from a lifecycle perspective is our products when they are in use, which is why we are so focused on continuously improving the energy performance of our product portfolio. Energy performance collaboration with our customers is a key component in our approach. Check out this video to learn more.

Written by Matilda Gennvi-Gustafsson

Matilda worked with environmental and production management within the food industry in the early 1990s and joined Ericsson in 1997. She has focused, over the years, on sustainability, business and change management. She is, since the beginning of 2009, working at group level as Sustainability Director, where Ericsson’s sustainability strategy is one of her main areas of responsibility.