Why tackling climate change matters to dtac and Telenor

The planet is facing severe environmental deterioration caused by resource exploitation, leading to a decline in biodiversity. Shoreline cities like Bangkok are sinking faster than expected due to the rapid rise of sea levels. Agriculture is being disrupted by flooding and drought brought by extreme weather patterns, posing challenges to food security.

“Climate change is not a linear problem, it’s an exponential problem,” Kristian Hall, Climate and Environment Director at Telenor, told dtacblog, referring to tipping points such as the melting of arctic permafrost, resulting in additional emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane. Telenor is a major shareholder of dtac and provides the company with expertise in many areas, including climate change.

Adhering to the Paris Agreement

In 2015, representatives from 196 states gathered in Paris to adopt the legally binding international treaty on climate change, the Paris Agreement. Its goal is to limit the rise of global temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius – preferably to 1.5 degrees – compared to pre-industrialization levels.

“To achieve this long-term cap on temperature levels, each country is required to issue plans on how to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Nordic countries are setting stricter and more ambitious climate targets, aimed at 40 percent reduction of GHG emissions when comparing 1990 to 2030,” said Mr. Hall. “As a responsible corporate citizen, Telenor set its long-term goal to reduce emissions of GHG from global operations by 57 percent by 2030, from a 2019 baseline.”

To ensure that Telenor’s is keeping pace with the Paris Agreement goal, the Fornebu-headquartered telecom provider is taking science-based climate action, as prescribed by the Scientific Based Targets Initiative (SBTi).

Ambitious corporate goals

Telenor operates in nine markets across Asia and the Nordics, and there are significant differences between the two regions. Different degrees of economic development call for different climate goals.

“In the Nordic regions, Telenor’s ambition is to have carbon-neutral business operations by 2030, focusing on energy efficiency measures in network operations, purchasing renewable electricity, and finally, implementing carbon neutral services. In Asia, a 50 percent reduction in carbon emission by 2030 is set as a goal, with a focus on substituting diesel generators with solar solutions at base stations and sourcing renewable electricity sources from solar, wind, and hydro power,” said Mr. Hall.

As Telenor reduces its environmental footprint, power purchase agreements (PPAs) will be adopted to anchor its operations’ progress on sustainability. PPAs are long-term contracts to buy renewable energy at agreed volumes and prices that meet the needs of generators and the consumers.

However, challenges remain. In Asia, fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas are primary energy sources. In Thailand, corporate PPAs are not yet available due to the power market’s regulation.

“PPAs are critical for the process of reducing greenhouse gas emissions as we’re moving towards the 5G era, which may increase overall energy consumption,” said Mr. Hall.

Leveraging new technologies

Using renewable energy sources will cut global emissions of telecommunication services.

New technologies may also contribute to the reduction of energy use. To achieve this, dtac has strengthened its energy reduction programs, which include deploying cooling precision technologies at data centers and increasing the mix of renewable energy use at cell sites.

The company also partners with leading industries to develop 5G use cases for energy efficiency, such as smart energy monitoring, smart farming, and smart water management.

Another example is the Green Radio project in Norway, which uses machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to better forecast the demands from users of telecommunications networks. This enables them to adjust power consumption and radio equipment capacities to match the demand.

Deployment of up-and-coming technologies, such as Internet of Things, Big data, AI and blockchain, will also significantly contribute to the telecommunications industry’s positive climate effects, enabling other companies and consumers to reduce their own emissions.  

“In vertical industries, IoT, 5G and blockchain technologies provide a basis for product traceability, allowing industries and consumers to better track the source of raw materials. When it comes to agriculture, automation can be used for unweeding, which can reduce pesticide use. Effective telecommunication is often an important enabler for such new technologies,” said Mr. Hall.

Managing expectations

“Strong environmental performance is crucial for a company to operate and earn trust from consumers, employees and stakeholders in Nordic countries,” Mr. Hall added. “Increasingly, investors are using a new framework of climate risk reporting – recommended by the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures – when evaluating whether to invest in a company.”

In turn, this focus on being environmentally responsible has benefited valuations of good corporate citizens, as companies that take more action on climate issues have seen higher stock growth compared with organizations that are weak on environment management. In addition to saving our environment, it is one more reason why businesses should take leadership positions on GHG emissions reduction.