Nokia's CEO Olli Kallasvuo: time to take action on climate change?

Photo by dottavi on Flickr.

Eureka! In what appears to be a slowly evolving trend (on a petri dish), yet another ICT CEO has come out with a statement on the climate crisis!

Nokia chief Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo's article "The Cost of Doing Nothing" (in the fight against climate change) argues that its "simply too high", and says that while strong political will is crucial, business also has a critical role to play.

Good-o. So what's Nokia got in store for us you ask?

Good question. Well, as our Cool IT green ranking clearly shows, Nokia - one of the world's largest information and telecommunications companies, based in Finland - is lagging way down the list. Despite scoring well for own emissions reduction targets and renewable energy use, Nokia has so far proferred little in the way of climate and political advocacy. In other words, a climate-related opinion piece from the CEO is something of a treat.

Albeit without mentioning the Copen-something, decide-the-future-of-the-world summit-thingy going on just over the water from Nokia's home in Finland, Kallasvuo does say in his article that a 30 percent cut in CO2 in industrial countries by 2020 is possible.

He also poses the very same question we would then ask: "so how can this be done?"

No-klia answer

Despite some references to the potential of mobile technology in saving emissions, Kallasvuo says very little about how Nokia can take action. This is all the more agonizing since he ends his statement by saying: 1) climate change is solvable as long as the right incentives are in place; 2) the policies needed are relatively clear; 3) the transition costs are manageable; yet 4) "the one thing we do not have is time."

Hmn, go on.

"Delaying in taking action", says Kallasvuo, "is simply no longer an option."

Just like one of those art house movies that finish abruptly and without a corny, Hollywood-happy ending, Nokia's chief leaves us hanging. While its okay for filmmakers to stop at depicting the bleak tragedy of real life, we expect more from business and political leaders. The 'executive' part of Chief Executive Officer is of course the operative word.

IT just getting started

Recent statements from Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, Dell's CEO Michael Dell, and Microsoft's environmental team reaffirming the need to stop climate change and involve business in the solutions - are welcome steps in the right direction.

But now it really is time for the IT industry to take action. It is worth reminding ourselves the industry is responsible for almost 2 percent of global CO2 emissions, and that is expected to double by 2020 - something Kallasvuo mentions himself. The possible "if the right incentives are in place" is the at the crux of the matter. We need legislation to spark transition to a low-carbon economy, and smart technologies won't help much for that. Rather, some good old political influence is due.

On the surface of things, companies like to pretend political lobbying is not something they know anything about; after all, they are businessmen, not politicians. Well, we know better. If you look at the companies dominating the climate debate currently in the media (and in terms of resources dedicated to lobbying) you can see energy companies occupying 10 of the top 16 spots; 5 are financial, one engineering. Not surprisingly, the world's biggest oil and gas corporation ExxonMobil, comes in at 3rd place jointly with Royal Dutch Shell and Duke Energy.

After all the hearty statements about the urgency of taking action on climate change, the IT industry would look pretty silly if it didn't start to exert some influence now for real action at the political level, where we know they are no wall flowers. Maybe the former Prime Minister of Finland - now employed by Nokia - would be a good place to start. How about using some of that "mobile technology" and giving old contacts Merkel and Sarkozy a call?