Kyla Reid | GSMA | Fri, 11 Dec 2015 12:41:03 +0000

As the COP21 meetings continue this week in Paris, politicians are ramping up efforts to reach a new deal addressing climate change. In addition to the negotiations, COP21 has an extensive conference programme and exhibition for delegates and civil society. The GSMA was invited to participate in the Resilience Day programme, and I had the opportunity to present how the mobile industry is supporting efforts to reduce risk, build preparedness and enhance its capacity to respond to challenges presented by climate change. This day built on a new, UN-led initiative on climate changed launched by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon: Anticipate, Absorb, Reshape.

The UN estimates that one-tenth of the global population now lives in areas at risk to flooding, drought and rising sea levels. Since the first UN Climate Conference in 1995, according to UNISDR, 606,000 lives have been lost and 4.1 billion people have been injured, left homeless or in need of emergency assistance as a result of weather-related disasters. This year we are seeing globally the impact of a strong El Nino effect, with many countries experiencing either severe flooding or extreme drought. The impacts of climate change can also exacerbate other problems, such as conflict and displacement, as has been profiled by a recent IRIN report on Cameroon. The GSMA believes that building resilience both in network infrastructure and in internal operations is necessary for mobile operators to effectively manage their networks and provide communication to those impacted by the natural hazards and emergencies that climate change presents. Below is an excerpt from the statement I made at COP21 on behalf of the GSMA and its members:

“The GSMA and its members seek to cooperate with government agencies and humanitarian partners to enable the effective functioning and use of mobile networks before and during critical periods. With this need in mind, this year the GSMA launched its Humanitarian Connectivity Charter — a set of principles and specific steps to improve disaster preparedness, resilience and partnerships within the mobile industry.

The impacts of climate change are too great for a single sector to address, and we believe the mobile industry can continue to play a positive role. Mobile networks connect 3.7 billion people globally, and they can be used to build resilience to climate-related hazards, such as through early warning systems, (read the GSMA report Dialog Axiata’s DEWN system) SIM-enabled monitoring and big data analytics. When disaster does strike, connectivity can be a matter of life or death. When mobile networks are quickly activated and restored before and during environmental crises, those affected can obtain critical information, call for help and connect with loved ones — as witnessed this year in Nepal and Vanuatu for instance. Mobile technology can support communities build resilience.â€

COP21 presents an opportunity to demonstrate the commitment and necessity of private sector engagement in responding to a changing climate. The mobile industry has made significant efforts in many countries where the impacts of climate change are acutely felt, but more can always be done. We hope to continue to build our Humanitarian Connectivity Charter signatory group to collectively identify where and how mobile operators can support.