SMARTer for the climate

How networking can help to slow
down global warming.

T wo degrees Celsius – what’s so bad about that? You might think. But it is becoming increasingly difficult to close our eyes to the effects of climate change. We are seeing ever more violent hurricanes, unprecedented rainfalls, and drinking water shortages in many regions of the world. Record temperatures not only bring us out in a sweat, they are also destroying harvests. Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has even claimed that climate change is the greatest threat in the history of mankind. What is certain is that if we don’t act now to save the global climate, climate change will force us to change. But it would be better to get a grip on the issue before “it” has us in its grip.

What is the greenhouse effect exactly?

Better or worse? Tap on the detail of the Earth and the video will explain why the greenhouse effect is so dangerous.

So, what can we do – is there even anything we can do? The good news is: yes – and we have tools that can help us in this. One very helpful tool is digitization. How does it help? There’s no doubt that the Internet guzzles huge amounts of energy. And the more giga-, terra- and exabytes whizzing around the network, the more energy is needed and the more pollution produced.

Climate change is the biggest danger in the history of mankind

And now we are supposed to believe it holds the answer? Yes! Because the Internet can do much more to help the climate than it does to harm it. And in the process, it can help break the link between growth and consumption of resources, save energy, and slow down climate change. To put a figure on it, experts believe information and communication technologies can save around ten times as much carbon emissions as they actually cause.

Potential CO₂ savings through ICT solutions in 2030


Gigatons CO₂ will be
emitted world wide by 2030

1.97%CO₂ emissions caused
by ICT sector

20%CO₂ can be saved using
smart ICT solutions

Does that mean, surfing the Net helps protect the climate? Not exactly. But under certain circumstances, certainly. You can find out just how digitization helps to save carbon emissions and slow down global warming in this special issue of We Care on the occasion of the 23rd UN Climate Change Conference!


Questions for...

Birgit Klesper

Question 1 out of 5

  • Ms. Klesper, this issue of We Care magazine is being released on the occasion of the 23rd UN Climate Change Conference, or COP 23 for short. Deutsche Telekom is getting involved with its own event at the conference – why?

    First of all, this year’s conference is being held in Bonn for the first time and Bonn is the location of the Deutsche Telekom Headquarters. But above all, because we are aware of our responsibility. Deutsche Telekom is one of the major global players on the information and telecommunications market. We are active in more than 70 countries with more than 220,000 employees. And we bear ecological and social social responsibility as a natural consequence of this. Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing us all. COP 23 aims to advance the implementation of the Paris Agreement with a view to limiting the global temperature rise in this century to well below two degrees Celsius. And with our core business of networks and digitization, we can make a big contribution to climate protection.

  • But isn’t the Internet a climate killer? According to a study by Greenpeace, if it was a country, it would be the world’s sixth largest consumer of energy.

    It is true that it takes energy to send data from A to B and the more data are sent, the more infrastructure is needed. But we see it as our duty to ensure that the build-out of our infrastructure does not go hand in hand with rapidly rising energy consumption and with it significant increases in carbon emissions. And we do a great deal to this end and work constantly to reduce our own carbon footprint. For example, we are converting our networks to IP technology (IP= Internet protocol). In this way, data arrive at their destination faster and with less power consumption. Another example is how we are pooling our data traffic in a few, highly efficient data centers. As a result, we have managed to ensure only a very slight increase in overall carbon emissions from our data centers, despite rapidly – disproportionately – rising data volumes. What’s more, we operate one of the world’s most efficient data centers in Biere, Saxony-Anhalt. It was awarded the respected LEED Gold sustainability certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). And that is something we are proud of.

  • That all sounds great. But you spoke earlier about a very big contribution to climate protection – that will take a lot more than this, won’t it?

    That’s absolutely right. The Paris Climate Agreement can only be achieved if we really change in all areas of our lives and bring about a major transformation. This is where digitization comes into the picture: But the key enabler for digitization is the networks, which form the foundation for modern information and communication technologies (ICT). And these technologies have the potential to play a key role for sustainable development. They enable solutions that help individuals and companies from all kinds of industries and sectors to reduce their emissions. One keyword is dematerialization. Users can lower their emissions by storing data in the Telekom Cloud, for example – and save resources at the same time, by reducing their own disk-storage requirements. Our high-efficiency and secure data centers have much lower per-unit energy use for data storage, thanks to their optimized capacity use. In industry, so-called machine-to-machine communication or M2M, for example, helps to reduce emissions, including in agriculture. Intelligent agricultural machinery enables farmers to optimize the use of fertilizers or seed, as well as the interaction between the machines. This can increase yields, save water and reduce carbon emissions. An international study found that the targeted use of information and communication technologies in farming could save around two billion metric tons of carbon emissions by 2030 – that’s a huge amount! And according to that study, information and communication technology products and services have the potential to save almost ten times as much carbon emissions in other industries as they use themselves as an industry. So even though the Internet uses a lot of energy at present, its potential for finding solutions to save carbon emissions is ten times greater. Hence digitization is effectively a lever that can be used to break the link between growth and consumption of resources, save energy, and slow down climate change.

  • So, what will your event at COP 23 be about?

    Right, so, on November 14, we, together with the Global e-Sustainability Initiative, an industry initiative, are holding a one-day event under the motto “The impact of ICT on climate change – curse or blessing.” As I have tried to explain, information and telecommunications technology as well as digitization can make a huge contribution to climate protection. In our view, this potential has been completely underestimated in the past. So, with our event, we want to help clarify this potential and demonstrate the opportunities of digitization. Of course, we will also discuss the social changes and risks this will entail. We hope for a lively discussion and lots of good ideas and suggestions. We attach great importance to sharing ideas with different stakeholder groups and working in partnership – that is how we make progress. After all, we will only master the challenges of our times if we look beyond our own garden fences, if we network, and all parties really work together: civil society, policy makers and business. The Internet is also a key platform for this required global networking. Sharing information, communicating with transparency, and inspiring others to get involved are also aims of our We Care magazine. Of course, we also want it to show where we get involved and what we have already achieved. But each issue of the magazine also includes tips for how every individual can make their own life more sustainable, be that by adopting a fuel-saving driving style, or using the Internet safely.

  • You have just mentioned tips. What tips would you personally like to pass on to We Care readers?

    It’s not easy, that’s for sure. But everyone should read the article “Vorsicht Falle” (“Danger: Trap”) in the “Vertraulich” (“Confidential”) issue, to hopefully help them avoid falling into cyber traps. And anyone who isn’t quite sure how climate change works can watch the animation on the greenhouse effect in the “Wandel” (“Change”) issue – by the way, this is also a great way to explain this really quite complex issue to kids. Anyone looking for a little light relief – and we all need some of that! – should check out the “Schichtwechsel” (“Shift change”) issue. But my favorite tip is about changing our own consumer behavior. None of us like to make sacrifices. In the “Teilen” (“Sharing”) issue, we show how people can change their consumer behavior without having to compromise too much on quality of life.