Mobile technology key to tackling climate change


Mobile will be one of the key technologies to tackle climate change and help develop smart solutions to ensure responsible economic growth across Latin America, according to a new report commissioned by the GSMA and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

The report, ‘Technology for Climate Action in Latin America and the Caribbean – How ICT and Mobile Solutions Contribute to a Sustainable, Low-Carbon Future’, authored by South Pole, analyses how the ICT industry is enabling the reduction of carbon emissions across all sectors – and also tackling its own ecological footprint.

The report also outlines how big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) are helping to address climate change and protect the environment and further highlights how industry and governments can tackle issues such as electronic waste.

“Addressing climate change is one of the most urgent concerns that the world faces today, and one that cannot be ignored,” said Mats Granryd, director general, GSMA.

“Mobile operators and others within the mobile ecosystem are delivering a vast range of programmes and initiatives that contribute to delivering the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including helping to combat climate change and its impacts. Indeed, SDG 13 (Climate Action) is one of the SDGs where operators are making the strongest contribution.”

“Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. To prevent these effects from occurring, entrepreneurs are working collaboratively with policymakers, financial institutions and civil society organisations to leverage the use of new digital technologies. Thanks to this effort, it is now feasible to design more efficient transport networks, provide more resilient infrastructure, improve resource management, implement smart energy grids and enable precision agriculture,” commented Juan Antonio Ketterer, chief, connectivity, markets and finance division, Inter-American Development Bank.

How the Digital Industry Can Reach its Full Potential to Address Climate Change

Mobile and ICT have the potential to efficiently reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and effectively decouple economic growth from emissions growth, the report says. A strong commitment to energy efficiency and renewable energy is the way forward for the digital industry to align itself with the Paris Agreement and to maintain global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius.

Mobile operators in Latin America are setting goals to expand the share of renewable energy in their energy mix over the next few years as they focus on initiatives to reduce energy consumption and contribute to environmental protection initiatives, such as campaigns to reduce deforestation and the development of services to protect wildlife.

Leveraging Big Data and the Internet of Things

Big data and the IoT have the potential to be the drivers for climate change solutions. Their application will assist the transport, manufacturing, agriculture, building, energy and other sectors in reducing GHG emissions and increasing the efficient use of resources while protecting the environment.

ICT and mobile solutions are being widely used to improve public services such as transport, smart metering, environmental monitoring, smart grids and more. An example is in São Paulo, where Telefoìnica launched a big data pilot to track human mobility, assess its impact on air quality, and gauge the health and wellbeing of inhabitants. Using mobility data, it has been possible to predict pollution problems up to two days before they occur, allowing the city to take precautions to protect public health, such as guiding traffic via alternative routes and advising vulnerable populations, such as those with respiratory conditions, on areas of high pollution.

A Sustainable Approach to e-Waste Management

The report reveals that the amount of electronic waste (e-waste) generated globally reached an estimated 46,000 kilotons (kt) in 2017, with Latin America accounting for approximately nine per cent of the worldwide total, or 4,400 kt. It was also estimated that only 46 kt, or one per cent, of the of the total e-waste generated in the region was directly associated with mobile phones. The new data from United Nations University notes that Latin America e-waste is expected to grow 10 per cent annually until 2020.

Latin American and Caribbean governments should improve incentives for recycling and reusing electric and electronic equipment. Recycling and reuse decrease energy used in the production of electronic equipment since it reduces the demand of virgin materials, the sourcing of which is very energy intensive. This reduces GHG emissions and also results in less e-waste going to landfills. To move further toward a circular economy, governments in the region will need to implement additional policies directed at the ICT sector, an example of which is the extended producer responsibility approach.

“ICT and mobile solutions are in the process of addressing the challenges of climate mitigation and adaptation. Forward-thinking companies that integrate efforts to reduce fossil fuel use, drive resource efficiency, increase renewable energy and alignment with the SDGs into their business planning will benefit from lower risks, increased savings, and stronger brand value,” concluded Renat Heuberger, CEO, South Pole.

The report ‘Technology for Climate Action in Latin America and the Caribbean – How ICT and Mobile Solutions Contribute to a Sustainable, Low-Carbon Future’ is available here.