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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Impact of ICT on climate change


The impact of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) on climate change cannot be over-emphasized, reports REMMY NWEKE.

Unknown to many dwellers in the Least Developing Countries (LDCs) of the world, including Nigeria, the most populous nation with the largest concentration of blacks on earth, technologies have been rated as one of the key agents for the escalation or otherwise of climate change.

And as a matter of fact, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) could even save about N103.4 trillion, according to a recent report jointly published by independent non-profit entities, The Climate Group and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI).

This is in spite of the clamour for adaptation of technologies to bridge the ever growing digital divide around the globe.

It was not surprising, therefore, that Nigeria is concerned over the evolution, hence the recent signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for increased awareness and sensitization on climate change and related issues between the Federal Government (FG) and the British Government, which was endorsed by the Minister of Environment, Mr. John Odey, and the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Bob Dewar, for their respective states.

This MoU came as Nigeria joined the rest of the world recently in celebrating the World Environment Day (WED), which has the theme, “Your planet Needs You. Unite to Combat Climate Change.”

Speaking at the ceremony, Mr. Odey noted that problems connected with climate change could be mitigated through collaborative efforts among stakeholders both locally and within the international communities.

The MoU, he said, would establish a framework for the implementation of projects in key areas, such as research into climate change attitudes, impacts and adaptation strategies.

He also said the agreement would help in the areas of emission reduction, technology cooperation, renewable and efficiency energy, in addition to capacity building and public awareness.

The MoU, Odey pointed out, would bring Nigeria and British industries, research and other non-governmental bodies closer; to discuss strategies for increasing and engaging in related climate change answers.

He promised that the FG and British Council will do all it takes to provide resources to support the agreed work plan, and seek appropriate external funding or sponsorship for specific activities.

Reiterating that effective responses to climate change remains an important objective of the Nigerian government and would continue to engage Britain for a closer and positive development, that could reflect government’s active programme of bilateral climate action.

For Mr. Dewar, climate change issue has assumed confronting position to the international community, hence it is a matter for everyone and all countries.

“It is a global issue, requiring a bold and collective solution in reaching an agreement in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December, requires that we work together for a common solution that will be important, not just for us, but for our children. We have only one planet,” he asserted.

Dewar stressed that Nigeria was strategic because of its population and leadership role in Africa, noting that the country would play a significant role in ensuring that Africa as a whole has one and balanced voice in Copenhagen.
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He noted that the British Government was keen in collaborating with Nigeria in awareness creation, sensitization and technology transfer, in its effort to assist in mitigating the impacts of climate change.

To achieve the objectives, he said the British Council would also need to collaborate with NGOs and the Civil Society Groups in Nigeria, to combat desertification, erosion, flood and deforestation across the federation.

This commitment, especially as Nigeria grows its ICT market comes to play, more so with the recent report by GeSI, entitled “Smart 2020: Enabling the Low Carbon Economy in the Information Age,” indicated that through enabling other sectors to reduce their emissions, the ICT industry could decrease global emissions by as much as 15 per cent by 2020 – a volume of CO2 five times its own footprint in 2020.

CO2 is the chemical formula for Carbon dioxide, which is a chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom. Also, carbon dioxide is the number-one reason for man-made climate change. Known as a colourless gas consisting of one carbon and two oxygen atoms; carbon dioxide existing in gas state above -78.5°C and in solid state (dry ice) below -78.5°C among other variables that could change from solid to gas by sublimation.

According to GeSI, transformation in the way people and businesses use technology could reduce annual man-made global emissions by 15 per cent by 2020 and deliver energy efficiency savings to global businesses of over EUR 500 billion (N103.4 trillion).

The report, which was the world’s first comprehensive global study of ICT sector’s growing significance for the world’s climate, was conducted independently by international management consultants, McKinsey & Company, showed that while ICT’s own sector footprint was two per cent, global emissions will almost double by 2020.

“This is countered by the sector’s unique ability to monitor and maximize energy efficiency both within and outside of its own sector could cut CO2 emissions by up to five times this amount. This represents a saving of 7.8 Giga-tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) by 2020 – greater than the current annual emissions of either the United States (US) or China,” part of the report read.

Even though, the report added that tele-working, video-conferencing, e-paper, and e-commerce are increasingly commonplace, replacing such physical products and services with their virtual equivalents; de-materialization and substitution, is only one part of six per cent of the estimated low carbon benefits the ICT sector could deliver.

Equally, the report showed that far greater opportunities for emissions savings exist in applying ICT to global infrastructure and industry as well as examined four major opportunities where ICT can make further transformational cuts in global emissions. These exist globally within smart building design and use, smart logistics, smart electricity grids, and smart industrial motor systems.

As explained by the chief executive officer, The Climate Group, Mr. Steve Howard, “PCs, mobile phones, and the web have transformed the way we all live and do business. Global warming and soaring energy prices mean that rethinking how every home and business use technology to cut unnecessary costs and carbon is critical to our environment and economy. Supported by innovative government policy, ICT can unlock the clean green industrial revolution we need to tackle climate change and usher in a new era of low carbon prosperity.”

And for the chair, GeSI, Mr. Luis Neves, the ICT industry is a key driver of low carbon growth and could lead transformation towards a low carbon economy and society.

“The ICT sector must act quickly to demonstrate what is possible, require clear messages from policy makers about targets and continue to radically innovate to reduce emissions,” he said.

While the United Nation’s Under-Secretary General and Executive Director, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Mr. Achim Steiner, pointed out that the rigorous assessment underlines the world can realize a green economy and make the transition to a low carbon economy.


“It also underlines the crucial importance of the international community reaching a deal on a new climate agreement at the climate convention meeting in Copenhagen in 2009 … Gives us yet another platform for action and yet another compelling reason for reasoned optimism,” Steiner said.

As we look forward towards the growth of ICT to about 4 billion by 2020 with Nigeria already scoring over 70 million mobile communication subscribers within eight years of telecom boom, it is crucial to continue to recognize that the tools have become imperative for the new ‘socially networked’ generation globally, thus, there is a need to see how collectively the global ICT emissions of about 22 per cent could persistently decrease; through the use or adaptation of trends like virtualization of data centres, long-life devices, smart chargers, Next Generation Networks (NGN), and growth of renewable energy consumption by encouraging the usage of solar powered base stations in delivering future sustainable sector growth.

Equally, ICT could help, rather than hamper the fight against climate changes, through ensuring that the ICT sector manage its own rising effect and maintain reduction in emissions from data centres, telecommunications networks, and the manufacture, as well as the use of related inventions, particularly via strictly adhering to type-approvals by the industry regulars like the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) alongside industry interest groups, including the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) and Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) among others.

Most of all, the steps taken so far by the government via the recent MoU with Britain is encouraging and should be sustained to aid Nigeria’s aim of reducing its carbon dioxide drastically, while keeping a positive tap on the nation’s Vision 20-2020.


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