I am here today as one of the newest members of the GCI’s Climate Change Task Force – and I am deeply honoured to join a group which is led by President Mikhail Gorbachev and which includes Nobel Peace Laureates, the Club of Rome, the Club of Madrid, and other very distinguished members.
This strong leadership can open doors, give us access to world leaders, and ensure that what we have to say is heard at the highest level.
This is particularly important in the light of Copenhagen.
Many of us – all of us here in this room today, I am certain – had hoped that COP15 would deliver a fair, ambitious and binding treaty.
That we failed, in Copenhagen, is of course a huge disappointment – and it means that we must now try even harder than before, and use every ounce of our influence to move the debate forward.
So that we go to COP16, in Mexico, with real progress made and with a much better chance of success next time.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Those who know me well, know that I am an optimist. And as an optimist, I am positive that we can succeed.
We have made some significant advances in recent months. And even though COP15 failed to meet its main objective, it was good to see that – at last – there was no longer any debate in Copenhagen on the facts and the science of climate change.
And it was good to see that over 120 world leaders – and more than 100,000 members of civil society – felt the issue was now at the very top of the global agenda.
So Copenhagen is not the end of a process, but the beginning of a new era. An era where we are making positive efforts to limit emissions and to mitigate the effects of climate change.
There was an interesting interview last week on CNN’s website with another optimist, Mark Lynas, a British journalist and environmental expert. He said: “we need to try and change the language used to discuss climate change, from all about burden sharing, to opportunity sharing. That's a big mental shift, it's a big political shift and it's a big economic shift,” he added.
And he’s right. This is all about opportunity.
As the president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, said so strikingly in Copenhagen: “It is not carbon we want, but development. It is not coal we want, but electricity. It is not oil we want, but transport. Low-carbon technologies now exist to deliver all the goods and services we need.”
The Maldives has recognized that going carbon neutral is not just the right thing to do but that it is also in its economic self-interest, and that countries which green their economies today, will be tomorrow’s winners.
We have a huge task ahead of us.
We need everyone – rich and poor, developed and developing countries alike – to be aware of the need to limit the extent of global warming to two degrees at the very most, and to bring carbon levels back down to 350 parts per million.
To give some idea of the immensity of this task, we need to remember that with ‘business as usual’ we will be at 965 parts per million at the end of this century – and that even after Copenhagen we will be at 770 parts per million.
Information and Communication Technologies – ICTs – will play a vital role in helping us win this battle.
Indeed, I would go further, and say that without ICTs we cannot possibly hope to win.
ICTs are the single most powerful tool humankind has at its disposal to avoid potential climate catastrophe. While technology contributes around 2.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more efficient use of modern technologies could cut global power consumption by 15%.
ICTs help to reduce waste, cut business travel and make industry more efficient.
New technologies being developed within ITU – such as Next-Generation Networks – can reduce network and data centre power consumption by up to 40%.
The universal charger, which has just been standardized by ITU, will deliver a 50% reduction in standby energy consumption, eliminate up to 80,000 tonnes of redundant chargers, and cut GHG emissions by at least 13 million tonnes annually.
Satellites are also tremendously important – not just in monitoring, but in helping increase food output and reduce emissions. Satellite-based intelligence services for farmers, for example, which cost less than US$ 15 per hectare annually, can increase yields by as much as 10%. And using satellite monitoring produces 98% fewer emissions than ordinary ground monitoring.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As head of ITU, the UN specialized agency dedicated to ICTs, I am firmly committed to pursuing every possible avenue which will lead to reduced emissions and a greener planet.
And I am very much aware of the need for partnership and cooperation if we are to succeed. We are therefore being proactive at ITU in reaching out to other organizations which we feel share our values and goals in the area of climate change – such as Green Cross International and the World Meteorological Organization.
Indeed, as we work towards COP16, I hope that our relationship with you will be strengthened and reinforced.
Working together – to spread the word and convince both politicians and the general public about the need for ambitious and urgent climate action – we can achieve so much more than we can by working alone.
Green Cross International is a unique and powerful force for good and for change, and ITU salutes your efforts. Your staff, across more than 30 countries, have a great deal to be proud of, and I am personally proud to be an active member of the Climate Change Task Force.
So let’s not waste any time – and let’s get to work now, in January, because we certainly can’t afford to wait until COP16 is upon us at the end of the year.