Ericsson, which ranked second on the newly released Cool IT Leaderboard, has played an important role in bringing awareness of IT climate solutions to the negotiations in Cancun. In the lead-up to the climate conference, Ericsson exerted significant leadership to unify the sector’s message to government.

The product of these efforts to date is a 4-page document signed by over 40 companies and global organizations representing more than USD 1 trillion of revenue, which expounds IT’s commitment to provide solutions that build a low carbon global economy.

The Guadalajara Declaration, as the text is named, was presented yesterday at a round table with environmental ministers from South Africa, Mexico, and India. Ericsson’s CEO Hans Vestberg spoke via Telepresence from Sweden, as did Luis Neves of Deutsche Telekom, chairman of GeSi, the organization that produced SMART 2020.

The Declaration states the need for transformative solutions and urges governments to use IT solutions to reach emission targets. It lays out six broad policy asks for government:

  1. Recognize and make full use of solution sectors (such as ICT), that through their products and services can help provide solutions which can significantly reduce emissions in order to avoid further climate change and support adaptation.
  2. Support the creation of a work stream with focus on transformative low-carbon solutions from solution sectors (such as the ICT).
  3. Support a global low-carbon ICT and broadband workshop to be organized under the auspices of the Global e-Sustainability Initiative and the Broadband Commission for Digital Development and supported by regional workshops.
  4. Recognize solutions with transformative potential in the negotiating text, for example, in the areas related to mitigation, the technology mechanism, technology development/transfer and adaptation.
  5. Support the development and adoption of an agreed methodology for calculation and reporting of the positive impacts of solutions that companies provide (including transformative ICT and, increasingly, broadband solutions).
  6. Include ICT solutions in National Mitigation/Adaptation Plans and share best practice.

Other Leaderboard companies to sign the Declaration include Cisco, HP, Microsoft, Nokia, Intel, and Wipro.

Greenpeace supports the asks laid out, and welcomes the sector’s increased focus on its role to engage governments on how IT solutions can help deliver more ambitious emission targets.  While the text successfully provides a more unified message and a much clearer framework for policy advocacy, the specifics of its policy asks and recommendations need to quickly become more concrete if they are to be useful to governments.

The Declaration will hopefully provide a solid precedent for collaboration between the IT sector and government, which must ramp up in the coming year to increase policy makers’ education about IT solutions and their role in climate policy. The IT sector must continue to build relationships with government and quickly look to how it can have an effect on other national and regional climate and energy policy decisions.

The following is an interview with Elaine Weidman, Vice President of Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility at Ericsson. It is the second of our series about IT company involvement at the UN climate conference in Cancun, Mexico.

Jodie Van Horn:  Why are you attending the climate negotiations?

Elaine Weidman:  We’re here to raise awareness of the role that ICT can play in helping to create a more low carbon economy.

JVH:  What does the IT sector need to do now to have its solutions better understood and be looked to by governments as an essential part of the policy making process?

EW:  I think the biggest challenge for the ICT sector is not actually getting its act together within the sector. We’re doing that now. You can see time and time again how companies are getting their own act together on the 2% of emissions, and are also starting to move more actively in the area of the 98%.

I think the big challenge is actually getting the message of ICT out to governments and other leaders. And even to other sectors. It’s really when you start getting into cross-sectoral discussions that there has to be an incentive. And the incentive needs to be commercial. So I think there’s a lot of work now, between sectors, in trying to find viable business cases to bring these transformative solutions to market.

And when it comes to governments, I think this is where we need the help of NGOs like Greenpeace and WWF, to evangelize that message. Even if we have had great success today with launching the Declaration, it’s still a side event, and the technologies are still not being acknowledged as part of the whole [UN] process. I would say this is a challenge. There is still too much focus on the heavy polluters and high carbon emitters and not enough focus on companies that can bring transformative solutions.

JVH: Is Ericsson working with clean tech or other sectors, such as renewable energy partners, to drive a united policy ask that can stand up against a well-funded negative lobby?

EW:  When it comes to the lobbying issue, I guess we haven’t been as active as some of the other sectors because we really haven’t had a lot to lose. We’ve only seen opportunities in the climate area. But I can say that I’ve been working on this Declaration for the last six months, and this has taken an enormous amount of my time to pull together. It’s been hard enough to get the work done within the sector, so to think about renewable energy and other sectors is really important, but I think we have to take step one.

It’s a platform to start from. It’s a position. We put down a baseline. We said: “This is where we are today. We want to engage.” Companies representing USD 1 trillion in revenue are represented in this declaration, and we want to have a voice. And I think that that’s the first step. There are many sectors that have transformative solutions, and if they want to engage, they are certainly welcome. The more companies that put forward their transformative solutions, the better we will all be.

JVH: What is the next step? How do you hope the Declaration will have an impact?

EW: We need to get ready for Q1 after the holidays. What the South African Deputy minister said is so important. He said, "We will create an opportunity for you in Durban to showcase your work," and he said, "The work needs to start in 2011." The Mexican climate change ambassador was on target as well. He said, "Don’t wait until Durban to plan a side event that nobody will attend. Go to where industry events are already happening." We have some pretty big industry events coming up, like Mobile World Congress in February, and lots of others as well.

JVH: Which other governments have been supportive and do you have a plan for reaching out to more governments on this issue?

EW: We were very lucky because Patricia Espinoza agreed to distribute the Declaration to all of the delegations that were here. They should have received them today. That shows tremendous support for public-private dialogue. And there’s been fantastic leadership on behalf of the Mexican government to incubate this over the last few months. But when we come to the end, we needed a hand it over to keep the process alive, and that’s where the South African government stepped in and said, "We’ll take this. We really want to include the private sector." During Q1 we will need to have a follow up. I need to go back to the other stakeholders here and see how to do this.

JVH: What’s the goal for COP17?

EW: The goal is to start to get governments to integrate ICT into their national development plans, into their infrastructural strategies. The COP is the COP, but the real work needs to happen on the policy level. There’s got to be an integration of environmental policies where governments are out setting environmental targets together with their ICT ministries, which are out setting infrastructural plans.

The ministries and policies have to be more integrated, because that’s where you can get scale and that’s where you get a diffusion of the technologies and services. We can provide the technology, it exists today, but in order to get people to use it and encourage a more sustainable lifestyle, that’s where the governments have a huge role. They need to start to educate people on how to use the technology and play a role. That’s the goal for me anyway.

We can come to the COP and it is of course an extremely important place where we need to come to a climate agreement. But also we need to work at the national level to make sure that governments know what’s available to them. And I feel it’s actually a moral obligation that we use the technologies that exist today. Why are we talking about [Carbon Capture and Storage]? It’s 15 years out before it’s going to scale. We have this technology today. We just need to use it in a smarter way.