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Digital role sought in protecting planet

By JAN YUMUL in Dubai, UAE | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-12-04 09:40

Doreen Bogdan-Martin, secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union, speaks during a meeting in Dubai on Saturday. CHINA DAILY

Global efforts to make digital actions greener received a boost at COP28 after the International Telecommunication Union and its partners, stakeholders and advocates launched the Green Digital Action Track on Saturday.

The event, held on the sidelines of the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, opened with the panel "Unleashing Green Digital Action for a sustainable digital tech industry", in which developing practical solutions and stepping up climate action across the industry to help steer the sector to leading climate action were discussed.

In the opening remarks, Doreen Bogdan-Martin, the ITU secretary-general, said the initiative was about raising the ambition of the digital sector and about building bold, new partnerships on concrete climate action without delay.

"We have to build a future where digital technology and climate action go hand-in-hand and where our industry not only enables but leads the transition to net-zero across the entire global economy."

Bogdan-Martin's speech was followed by a dialogue between two industry leaders before the panel formally opened.

Luis Neves, the chief executive of the Global Enabling Sustainability Initiative, a cross-industry sustainability initiative and digital solutions provider, said the gathering of stakeholders at the event was "a very special moment" because the digital aspect "has not been at COP meetings".

Takayuki Morita, the chief executive officer of the multinational Japanese electronics company NEC, said everybody "likes talking about digital trends", which he said was now "a very handy technology" itself that "we could take advantage of".

Contributors "to this reality", he said, included the availability of vast computing power at a reasonable cost, which was also driven by the power of artificial intelligence, the key part of technology today contributing to solving issues such as detecting tsunamis or earthquakes.

He also identified two challenges that people need to overcome coming from "nontechnological fields", one being standardization and the other being incentives.

Melissa Schoeb, the chief corporate affairs officer of the Finnish electronics company Nokia, said the information and communication technology industry was responsible for about 2 to 2.5 percent of global carbon emissions, which, she said, was comparable to the aviation industry.

"So we have a lot to do. The science of needing to do more is pretty clear. Of course, there is a business need to do that. So running large telecom networks is also expensive, and energy efficiency is quite high."

Investment needed

Chen Guangzhe, the vice-president for infrastructure at the World Bank, said that as a development institution, the bank focuses on developing countries because poor people suffer the most from climate change.

"We all realize that digital technology can offer digital solutions for many of the challenges we face, but at the same time, we have to recognize that in the developing world, we still have 2.6 billion people who are not connected online. It's not that they don't have coverage but it's too expensive or they are not using the technologies."

Chen said there is "a lot of investment that needs to be done" to keep people online and to benefit from technology, but that the key is to do this sustainably. Green digital development "is so critical for all of us" and to enable people to get online and use the internet proactively, he said.

Philippe Tuzzolino, the vice-president of the French telecommunications company Orange Group, said his firm has taken steps to align with the best target initiative to reach net zero and will publish a yearly report led by the ITU at every COP.

He also called for a common methodology to be established, and for a standard to be applied for all the efforts, and to involve industries and ministries of energy, as well as information and communication technology to ensure that companies implement renewable energy in their operations.

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