Kumi Naidoo

Executive Director of Greenpeace International Kumi Naidoo interacting with Greenpeace volunteers during his visit at the Greenpeace India office. Image: Greenpeace / Sudhanshu Malhotra

On a recent visit to our Indian office – my first time there since I joined Greenpeace International last year – I found myself meeting with the leadership of many of the country’s biggest information technology and telecommunications companies. The roundtable, organized by Greenpeace India, was a high-profile affair; India’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry had clearly taken a keen interest in our question: how can the country’s ICT sector continue to grow and, at the same time, lower its carbon emissions and set India on a path to a low carbon economy?

We invited ICT CEOs to meet with us because we wanted to better understand the industry’s perspective. We wanted to understand the particular challenges that exist for ICT as part of the larger climate problem. We also wanted to talk about opportunities for companies to develop climate friendly policies and policies for energy efficiency. ICT companies must realize that the adoption of renewable energies could make “electricity for all” a reality.

India’s ICT industry is in a very powerful position because the country’s economic growth depends on the industry. That means that companies can play an important role in the development of the country by influencing government policy. When it comes to energy in India, the right kind of influence could go a very long way in our global fight against climate change.

Right now, energy demand in India greatly exceeds available supply; more than 400 million people are not even connected to the electrical grid. Furthermore, coal-fired power – one of the main drivers of climate change – supplies more than half of the country’s energy. Clearly, change is called for if we want to steer the country towards a more sustainable future, powered by the sun, the wind and the natural forces of the earth, with fair energy access for all.

During our fascinating discussion we learned that some incentives are already in place to entice the industry to move to renewable energy sources. For example, the government offers a 30% subsidy to companies that power their telecom towers with solar energy. Several companies and banks have joined forces to provide solar power to poor villages currently without access to energy – for the same price of the kerosene villagers have been using to light their lamps. This was of course music to our ears.

But this discussion was only a first step. We need to start a real relationship from which to move forward and actively create ICT-based climate solutions. We need companies to make tangible commitments to cut their emissions and we need to see the industry use its influence to steer India towards a future based on renewable energy and increased energy efficiency. 

India’s ICT sector has revolutionised the country's economy. Together with civil society it now has the opportunity to assume a key role in revolutionising the country’s energy sector – placing India firmly on a pathway to clean and sustainable development.