- Professor Latif, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global land-based
temperatures have risen to date by 1.53 degrees Celsius and we are now all living the consequences
of that rise in the form of heat waves, flooding and ever more violent storms. How can a rise of
just one or two degrees make such a big difference?
Even if the average global temperature on earth has only changed a couple of degrees, such a change can have an enormous effect on the climate. One example can make this very clear: if you use global average temperature as your measure, the difference in temperature between the last Ice Age about 20,000 years ago and today was no more than about 5 degrees.
- The earth’s climate has always been in flux over the millennia. Is the current change we’re
seeing in our climate due to natural causes or are we humans solely responsible for it? Can you say
what percentage of climate change we’re responsible for?
The temperature as we have measured it over recent decades is rising much faster than at any other time over the last 2,000 years. Another difference as compared to past warming periods is that right now the whole surface of the earth is getting warmer. If one looks back to the past, the “Medieval Warm Period”, as well as the “Little Ice Age” that followed it, were phenomena that affected only particular regions of the earth. And scientists agree that the main cause of global warming since the middle of the 20th century has been human activity.
- Looking at it realistically, do we have any chance of stopping climate change? And if the answer
is yes, what do we need to do? What are the most powerful levers we have available to us?
In theory it’s quite within our power to stop climate change. What we need to do is to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions very fast. By the middle of this century we have to get ourselves to a “net zero” situation: That means that all greenhouse emissions caused by humans need to be removed from the atmosphere through reduction measures. Achieving that would mean humans becoming climate neutral, and global temperatures would begin to stabilize. One way of removing CO₂ from the air would be through reforestation. We need more of the earth’s surface under forest cover. Another approach would be to begin to regard the CO₂ in the air as a raw material and to find uses for it in industry and in the energy economy.
- Do you see any opportunities for climate protection arising out of the digital
Absolutely! The future belongs to renewable energy. That means no longer getting our energy mainly from large centralized power stations but from lots of smaller, local systems, all the way down to mini-wind turbines and rooftop solar systems. On top of that, we also need to connect the electricity, heating and transport sectors into a single network. To do that we need intelligent digital energy systems to ensure that we achieve the most efficient possible energy supply.
- Many people feel completely helpless in the face of the catastrophe facing us and, feeling
powerless to change anything, simply close their eyes to it and continue living their lives as
before. Would it do any good for us to make radical changes to our lifestyles and to learn to live
in a more climate-friendly way? Where do we need to make changes?
Nothing is impossible! A quick look at history will tell us that, after all, nobody had thought that German reunification could have happened as fast as it did. Germany has a responsibility to show that we need to think of climate protection and human welfare as a single goal. Climate protection is a shared general social challenge that every social group needs to face up to. We have to get away from the habit of simply talking about what we have to give up for the sake of climate protection. What we need to do instead is direct our vision to what we can gain from the change: in terms of quality of life, for example. If you leave your car behind and travel around the city by bike instead, then the environment isn’t going to be the only thing that benefits: your health will benefit too. And if you take public transport, that decision will help reduce your stress levels: no traffic gridlock, no long search for a parking space – and most of the time you’ll get to your destination faster.
- And if we don’t succeed in halting the rise in temperatures, what does that mean for life on
earth and for us humans – how is the earth going to look in 10, 50, 100 years from now?
That's hard to say. We humans are conducting a gigantic experiment on the earth at the moment. What’s quite clear is that it’s going to get warmer: we’re going to experience more frequent and more serious heat waves and rainstorm events. On top of that, the sea level is going to continue to rise, with incalculable consequences for coastal regions. Some regions of the Earth are going to end up uninhabitable. So, all in all, the prospects are not very positive.
- Climate activist Greta Thunberg has been inspiring a lot of young people recently. Could this
signal the start of a global change of heart?
I dearly hope that a global change of heart is gaining momentum. Without societal pressure, decision-makers in politics and industry will never be forced to change direction quickly enough. Her activism is certainly a positive contribution. We do know from history what sort of power can be unleashed when really large numbers of people take to the streets for a cause: Germany’s decision to phase out nuclear power, for example, would most likely never have happened without the anti-nuclear movement.
The Greenhouse Effect
What exactly is the greenhouse effect and why is it so dangerous? In this animation, we get to the bottom of the greenhouse effect problem.
Climate protection is our top priority
Over about the last two decades, climate protection has been steadily increasing in importance at Deutsche Telekom. We adopted our first environmental program in 1995, an initiative that was followed by measures to reduce our energy consumption and improve our carbon footprint. In 2008, we set ourselves a target for CO₂ reduction: we committed to reducing our in-house CO₂ emissions by 20 percent, using 2008 as our base year. Not only have we achieved this target, but we have exceeded it by reducing our emissions by 60 percent. At the start of 2019, our CEO Tim Höttges adopted new, ambitious climate targets. However, we understand that time is running out, which is why we have raised the bar yet again in early 2021.
Our network is green
Right now, our customers are surfing on Deutsche Telekom’s green network across the entire Group – from mobile communications to high-speed DSL, we have switched all our networks entirely to power from renewable sources.
We’re making a big commitment
But that is by no means all. By 2025, we are going to reduce our company’s direct and indirect emissions to net zero. This also includes emissions produced through the use of gas, diesel, and oil, for instance. We want to achieve this first and foremost by implementing measures to boost energy efficiency. To become 100% carbon-neutral, any remaining emissions are to be compensated for with appropriate offsetting measures.
We have also set ourselves a target for the emissions generated by our suppliers and customers. By 2030, we aim to reduce all emissions resulting from the manufacture and use of our products by 25 percent per customer (using 2017 as our base year). We are aiming to be a completely climate-neutral company from 2040 onward, which means totally eliminating our carbon footprint.
Reducing our entire footprint
Did you know that more than 80 percent of our CO₂ footprint is not generated by us at all? By far the largest share of our CO₂ emissions can be attributed to the manufacture of our products by our suppliers and to the use of our products by customers. To achieve our aim, we are working hand in hand with the suppliers who manufacture smartphones, network equipment, etc., on our behalf. Together, we are creating schedules for achieving energy savings and reduced CO₂ emissions in manufacturing processes. On top of this, we are striving to ensure that devices become more efficient, so that customers consume less energy when using them.
Sustainability at a glance
We are using two new labels to make sure customers can tell which of our products and solutions
generate sustainable added value: #GreenMagenta and
This is helping us ensure products, services, projects, measures, and initiatives with sustainability credentials really stand out. #GoodMagenta highlights positive contributions to solving social challenges in the digital world, while #GreenMagenta demonstrates that we take climate change and its consequences seriously.
A brief description provided underneath the symbol will answer specific questions on a product’s benefits in terms of sustainability, including such topics as whether it contains recycled material, whether the packaging is biodegradable or whether the product provides benefits in terms of energy efficiency.
Protect the climate digitally
Digitalization is an important tool on our path to a more climate-friendly future. It can help save energy – on a small scale at home, by controlling our heating via an app in our smart home, for example, or on a very large scale, by using digital applications in industry to make manufacturing processes more efficient.
We offer a great many products, services, and activities to help our customers cut their CO₂ emissions. To assess our overall performance when it comes to protecting the climate, we compare these potential savings of our customers with our own carbon footprint. In 2020, the positive CO₂ effect calculated in this way corresponded to a ratio of 7.1 to 1. In other words, the reduction in CO₂ that our solutions help our customers achieve far exceeds Deutsche Telekom’s own emissions. And we are also committed to climate protection in our own company.
A 100 percent green network – how is that possible?
Running our entire network on 100 percent green electricity sounds like a simple matter, but it poses challenges for an international company such as Deutsche Telekom. After all, every country in which we operate provides very different legal frameworks and options for purchasing green electricity. In the USA, for example, we have concluded long-term contracts with wind and solar producers. These contracts run over a time period of 12 to 15 years, which gives the power producers security of investment. Thanks to these contracts, three new wind farms and three solar parks have been constructed in the United States. That is how we are making a significant contribution to the energy transition. We are also aiming to conclude such long-term electricity purchase agreements in other countries. In 2020, we published a guide for the entire Deutsche Telekom Group, the basic purpose of which is to support our national companies in choosing the ideal solution for their individual needs by providing information on the various options they have available for the purchase of green electricity.
Focus on efficiency
The very best way of reducing CO₂ emissions is by reducing energy consumption. That is why energy efficiency constitutes an important aspect of our climate protection strategy. We are updating all our networks and using energy-efficient technologies for lighting, monitoring and cooling systems at our data centers. One good example of our approach is provided by our data center at Biere near Magdeburg, which is not only one of the largest centers in Europe, but also one of the most efficient in the world. Its innovative cooling concept alone cuts its total energy requirements by about one third relative to comparable data centers. Our data center has been awarded the Gold LEED certification (LEED: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for its innovative energy and environmental design.
Scientifically tested and approved
Can companies like Deutsche Telekom make a really effective contribution to mitigating climate change by implementing strict climate targets? It was precisely this question that the Science Based Targets initiative set out to answer. Scientists from this organization test whether the climate targets of companies correspond to the latest research – as well as whether they are really well designed to achieve the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement: to limit worldwide warming to below two degrees as compared to pre-industrial times. The Science Based Targets initiative has reviewed our climate targets from 2019 and confirmed that these targets already make us one of the first three DAX-listed companies to support the Paris 2-degree target.
We make sure our progress is measurable
The actions we are taking on climate protection are aimed to help us achieve our goals. We measure whether we are getting there or not via two key indicators: by recording our energy consumption and our CO₂ footprint. We then compare those numbers against the volume of data flowing through our networks. In this way, we establish a direct link between our climate protection actions and the usage of our networks. This allows us to identify where we need to make tweaks to ensure that we reach our targets. The development of both key figures over the last three years shows that our network is becoming increasingly efficient.