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Internet usage and its unseen environmental impact


Migrating to information communication technology (ICT) from paper is often considered the ultimate way to reduce humanity’s carbon footprint.

Studies show that ICTs can reduce emissions in other sectors by at least 15%, making them a significant enabling technology to combat climate  change.

But the story doesn’t end there. ICTs are not carbon neutral. Internet usage has an often-unseen environmental impact despite the key role the internet can play to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in other sectors. Energuide estimates that internet usage is currently responsible for the emission of 3,7% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is the equivalent of all air traffic in the world.

The figure is expected to double by 2025.

This jump excludes the COVID-19 effect. The global epidemic increased internet usage as businesses, families and friends evolved their operations and sought to remain connected in the face of rolling lockdowns to keep the bug in  check.

Espcu.eu reports that the increased internet usage due to the pandemic has increased emissions by up to 3,2 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per annum.

Before factoring COVID-19 effects, digital carbon footprint figures estimated the internet to have been emitting 1,6 billion annual tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

The major reason for this seemingly huge carbon footprint is due to the communication devices’ energy requirements. The communication industry will represent 20% of all the world’s electricity consumption by 2025.

ICT devices also break, die-out or become redundant generating ginormous volumes of e-waste. More than 50 million tonnes of e-waste were produced in 2019 alone, a number that was expected to rise by 8% each year. This huge carbon footprint makes it even more urgent to transition to the use of clean energy to power the communication devices.

Zimbabwe is, however, still some way off as it is still generating electricity from coal-powered power plants at Hwange and Munyati and extensively using diesel generators to provide backup power in the event of power outages.

The Telecommunications Operators Association of Zimbabwe notes that solar usage was a challenge, especially in remote locations, due to theft of equipment and batteries, with winter periods producing less than sufficient energy yields.

Tax regimes promoting inequality

The gap between the poor and the rich continues to widen as 72% Zimbabweans now live under the poverty line. Taxing the rich will lift communities out of poverty, deliver universal healthcare and secure adequate resources for social protection.

In 1972, the Swedish government hosted the first United Nations international conference on environment and sustain able development. Heads of State from different countries across the world converged in Stockholm, Sweden, to deliberate on climate action to save humanity as the rise in sea levels, temperature, erratic and unreliable rainfall patterns possess a major threat on human existence.

The 1972 UN international conference on environment and sustainable development gave birth to many international dialogues on the need to bring harmony between humans and their environment.

One of  the outcomes of that conference was the creation of the United Nations Environment Programme. Fifty years later, heads of State, government departments, non-governmental organisations and corporates converged in Stockholm for another environmental conference. The conference was held on June 2 and 3, 2022 in the Swedish capital Stockholm, the same week as world environmental day which was also one of the results of the 1972 UN environ mental conference. The stockholm+50 was held under the banner “A healthy  planet for all our responsibility, our  opportunity”.

It was, therefore, an honour for Green Governance Zimbabwe Trust (GGZT) to be represented at this global platform that speaks to the work  that the organisation is doing in Zimbabwe.

The Swedish development partner invited Lewis Marowa to represent GGZT for a side-event with  other delegates to discuss on environ mental activism in conflict affected  areas. The side event gave an opportunity for environmental activist from Palestine, Gaza and Zimbabwe to share their experiences in working in climate change-affected areas.

The platform was quite important especially for the  world to understand climate crisis from the perspective of the countries in the  global south.

The effects of climate change know no boundary and they do not segregate as the least emitters of green house gases suffers the greatest climate change induced weather extremes from the impacts of global warming.

The call to phase out fossil fuel and refute financial institutions from financing the exploration of resources that are harmful to the  environment can never be over emphasised. The stockholm+50 conference gave an honest reflection on the strides  made since the first UN environmental conference in 1972.

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