SANTA CLARA, Calif.--The United Nations' Global Compact Lead Ole Lund Hansen has stressed the importance of sustainability, while calling on information and communications technology (ICT) companies to align strategies in order to promote better energy efficiency.
Speaking at ARM TechCon in Santa Clara, Hansen said that while the developed world was still pushing forward with a technological revolution, that revolution had yet to solve some of the earth’s more serious challenges, including starvation, lack of potable water for up to a billion people and waste absorption. The lack of sustainable energy for all, he said, was also rapidly becoming a UN priority in a world filled with energy poverty.
To address the issue, the UN has launched the Sustainable Energy for All initiative aimed to engage not only governments, but also the private sector and civil society partners too. The aim, Hansen said, was to achieve universal access to energy, more energy efficiency and the increase of energy share generated from renewable resources by 2030.
“The era of cheap energy is over. We need to improve energy security,” said Hansen, pointing out that by 2039 there would be some 8 billion people on the planet, resulting in a 27 percent increase in energy consumption per capita, while output from existing oil fields would have dropped by almost two thirds and e-waste would have become a critical issue.
“We consume much more than the planet can regenerate and we produce so much waste that it can’t be absorbed,” said Hansen.
In addition, said Hansen, the sustainable energy initiative would help combat climate change, and its side effects which include a higher frequency and severity of extreme weather.
Hansen claimed the world would be facing an increase in global temperature of 4 degrees centigrade by the end of the century, saying the goal was to try and limit this to just two degrees.
The ICT industry has yet to pull its collective weight in cutting down on the global carbon footprint, Hansen posited, noting that, as a whole, the segment had only contributed to a 2 percent reduction.
The music revolution, he said, had helped a great deal by switching from CDs to digital formats, while the advent of the e-book reader had also started having a positive impact on dematerialization by reducing the need for paper printing, but these two efforts alone were not sufficient, said Hansen.
In order to double the rates of improvement on energy efficiency and the share of renewables in the global energy mix, more effort needed to be put in to move increasingly towards “smarter societies.”
These smart societies would first and foremost use smart grids to connect various decentralized renewable power sources to many small users. There would also be better measurement technology systems in place so that people could become more aware of their energy usage. Design criteria in such a society would adapt to include both low power and low cost per unit of various devices, so as to make them “culturally compatible” he said.
In terms of advice to ICT businesses aiming for a greener footprint, Hansen suggested energy efficiency be thought into all major equipment investments, to avoid lock-ins, as well as comprehensive analysis of energy use throughout the entire value chain.
The average return on investment for energy efficiency projects was some 20 percent, Hansen posited.
“Set ambitious targets,” said Hansen, adding that corporate sustainability had to make the shift from philanthropy to core business.