In Canada, the government is betting on 5G without debate on its environmental impact

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Canada wants to be a leader in the deployment of 5G and the government argues that the latest telecommunications technology would benefit all Canadians. A risky bet given its ecological impacts, which have not yet been debated in society.

From our correspondent in Montreal,

A research center on 5G and artificial intelligence at more than 540 million dollars. Formalized Monday, October 17 by Nokia, alongside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the project will be supported up to 40 million Canadian dollars (about 30 million euros) by the Strategic Innovation Fund.

Canada thus reaffirms its desire to be in “ leader of the massive deployment of 5G. This technology promises speeds up to ten times faster than 4G, with reduced latency to accelerate the creation of connected objects, from the car to the fridge, while consuming less energy on average than the previous generation. . But in Montreal alone, operators plan to install at least 40,000 5G antennas, 40 times more than 4G antennas.

An economic and political opportunity

We will continue to support innovation to grow our economy, connect our communities and create good jobs for middle-class Canadians “, declares the office of Justin Trudeau on October 17. Representing nearly 50% of Canadians, the “middle class” is the spearhead of the Prime Minister’s policy, and a huge pool of votes. Mentioning it is thus a way of justifying investments in 5G, by promising that the latter will be beneficial for it, as for Canadian society as a whole.

The information and communications technology (ICT) sector is, in 2021, theone of the engines of Canadian growth : it is responsible for 15% of the country’s GDP over the last five years. The Prime Minister’s office thus argues, in the context of its investments in 5G, that ” each new job created by an investment in this sector creates 2.3 new jobs in the Canadian economy as a whole. Every dollar invested in this sector adds almost two dollars to our economy. »

However, the price to pay is high: if no figures exist on the environmental impact of digital technology in Canada, in the world, we know that the latter is responsible for 3 to 5% of greenhouse gas emissions. However, deployed on a massive scale, 5G will lead to more digital use, and therefore more pollution, despite energy gains in certain sectors that would be more efficient, such as intelligent transport.

Question the environmental impact

However, in Canada, much more than in France, the impacts of digital technology such as 5G on the environment have not yet been debated. There have not yet been any controversies on the subject, such as the one which had been abruptly closed by Emmanuel Macron, with her quotes about the amish. ” In Canada, we talk a lot about the impact of transport or energy supply, and this is legitimate, but digital technology is perceived, in a fairly general way, as an ally by default of the ecological transition, it is very little questioned regrets Martin Déron, in charge of digital for Transition pathsa project that explores ways to achieve a desirable and sustainable society by 2040.

The Canadian government, in a written response to RFI, states: Wireless technologies can play a vital role in Canada’s green economic recovery. The advanced services and technologies promoted by 5G could indeed reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to greater efficiency and more sustainable development. »

However, 5G has an impact on the environmental footprint of the countries in which it develops. ” This confusion has a lot to do with the term “virtualization” as if we were going to move from a material economy to a virtual economy. While it’s simply an industry that’s very good at hiding its material impacts “, explains the digital project manager at Chemins de transition.

Admittedly, 5G is supposed to reduce the energy consumption of antennas and could make it possible to provide less energy-intensive services, for example by being managed by artificial intelligence. But the rebound effect is immense: by opening the door to the Internet of Things, more and more water resources and raw materials will be needed to manufacture fridges, toothbrushes and other connected objects.

For the Chemins de transition project, Canadian society must prioritize the uses of 5G. ” Developing 5G on a massive scale, while assuring everyone that we will have economic benefits, seems very utopian and harmful to the environment. Why not deploy 5G in specific industrial territories, for specific objectives, in health or transport? asks Martin Deron. The idea would therefore not be to abandon this technology, but to decide together for which applications 5G is the most interesting ecologically, socially and economically. Developing a fridge that warns that there are no more tomatoes is probably not one of them. Addressing the flaws in health systems, yes.

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In Canada, the government is betting on 5G without debate on its environmental impact

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