ICT has without a doubt, played a significant role in decreasing society’s resource intensity and increasing productivity, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has improved environmental sustainability, from the gradual change from a print-consuming society to the reduction of travel-induced pollution and fuel use. Concurrently, ICT has facilitated and accelerated the development of more resource-intensive lifestyles, including the rapidly increasing resource consumption of ICT itself, putting strain on the environment through the required infrastructure and other necessary hardware.
On Tuesday, 30 November 2021, the Telecommunication and Technology Working Group (TTSWG), in collaboration with key partners, organised its second webinar themed ‘The Journey to Green: Energy and Emissions Management within the ICT Sector’ to address both the positive and negative impacts of ICT on the environment, how ICT and the ICT sector may be considered as part of the problem and also part of the solution to global environmental issues, as well as draw the attention of decision and policymakers towards the possible ‘greening’ of ICT practices to contribute towards the global achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG 7) through efficient energy systems and reduction in carbon emissions.
Giving the welcome address, Bekeme Masade-Olowola, Chief Executive, CSR-in-Action, highlighted the many benefits of technology; benefits that have been made obvious through the pandemic through ease of access to information, its help in creating work-life balance, time optimisation, ease of mobility, better communications, cost efficiency, improved banking and innovations. Accordingly, the environment remains a front-burner issue for the sector considering its direct effects through the design, manufacture, use, and final disposal of ICT equipment and services.
The webinar started with a keynote speech from the Minister of State, Federal Ministry of Environment, Chief Sharon Ikeazor who was ably represented by Mr Abbas Suleiman, Director, Federal Ministry of Environment. The Federal Minister began by stating the mandate of the Federal Ministry of Environment as the government agency responsible for securing a quality environment conducive for good health and well-being through the promotion of sustainable use of natural resources. Hailing the theme of the webinar, Mr Suleiman remarked that, “It reflects the current agitations for a reduction in carbon footprints and the need to transit to renewable energy, hence, imperative for focus to tackle the recurring challenges of climate change, deforestation, desert increment, loss of biodiversity, flood and erosion, environmental pollution amongst others to sustain a conducive environment alongside infrastructural development such as in the telecoms sector.”
Strategies developed by the Ministry along the journey to green energy, to conserve biodiversity and ensure energy sufficiency in the telecommunication sector include:
- The introduction of lithium batteries
- Transitioning from diesel regulated generators to hybrid power – solar and battery
- Connection of grid stations to the national grid to further reduce the dependence on generator use
- Ensuring compliance with global environmental agreements
- The issuance of 29 permits for the export of hazardous waste and import of green waste is in line with the Basel Convention.
Reiterating Nigeria’s commitment to her Energy Transition Plan as part of the global community. The nation in alignment with the global community is focusing on the following 5 themes:
- Energy access
- Energy transition
- Energy to action to advance other SDGs
- Capacity Building and Digital Acquisition
- Finance and Investment
The panel session moderated by Eno Udoma-Eniang, Chairman, Legal & Regulatory Committee, ALTON, included panellists such as Dr Akanimo Odon, Principal Consultant, Envirofly Consulting UK Limited, Steve Martineau, Mobile and ICT Lead, COP 26 High-Level Climate Champions, Madam Donna Aimiuwu, Deputy Director, Federal Ministry of Environment and Adedoyin Alade-Fadipe, CEO, Central Electric and Utilities.
Starting the discussions, Dr Odon pointed out that Africa contributes only 4% to global emissions while ICT as a sector contributes to 2% of global emissions, with over 57% of these emissions driven by user devices. According to him, three (3) things that will influence organisations to take sustainable actions, include:
- Compliance (as it relates to government policies and regulations)
- Support system (collaboration/partnership with other organisations)
- Compensation and Incentivisation (a reward mechanism)
Companies must learn that while they are saving the environment, it also helps them to save costs as seen in the case of Bank of America where 20,000 pounds was saved by the discontinuance of bottled water at executive meetings.
Speaking about the need for green cultures to be embraced, he encouraged ICT organisations to take better steps through green procurement, green financing, e-waste, awareness creation, training, sustainable Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and increased waste management systems.
Steve Martineau highlighted the benefits of emissions and energy management such as the fact that it gives room for the introduction of efficient energy systems, encourages better behaviours within organisational management and benefits corporates in the long run by saving costs for organisations and increasing their profits. He encouraged companies within the ICT space to make better decisions within themselves and not wait for regulatory sanctions to be imposed.
Madam Donna applauded the ICT sector in Nigeria for the massive strides taken towards reducing density in the environment through the collocation of operators, the divestment of infrastructural management, hybrid installations and the installation of less bulky devices – all of which, as she pointed out, caused fewer footprints, used minimal land space and showcased compliance within the sector. When asked about the top policies in Nigeria that impact organisations in achieving better practices she listed them as follows:
- National Policy on the Environment
- Environmental Impact Assessment Act
- Sectoral Guidelines
- Guidelines on Environmental Audits by the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA)
Adedoyin Adele-Fadipe closed the discussions by highlighting how organisations within the ICT and Energy sector can reduce their footprints by installing smart utility systems, encouraging recycling through an Environmental and Social Management System (ESMS) and setting up Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.
The Federal Ministry of Environment’s recommendation to surmounting the challenges of climate change include:
- Designing and Implementing climate-smart standard operating procedures
- Providing technical support for environmental remediation
- Designing programmes and processes for a cleaner environment
- Ensuring environmentally sustainable planning
Other recommendations include:
- Becoming more indigenous in our approach to combating environmental issues rather than borrowing technology or ideas
- Waste management plan for developers for all their e-waste across the nation
- The use of eco-innovation
The TTSWG was encouraged to come together to create a framework that helps the ICT sector understand their contribution and responsibilities towards a healthy environment.
The TTSWG is a multistakeholder network of corporate organisations committed to the development of the telecoms and technology sector through global best practices, innovation and thought leadership in Business Sustainability. It is aimed at yielding joint action among key telecommunication and technology stakeholders through various strategic partnerships, policy formulation and advocacy programmes.