IT Is Key To Climate Change Control

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BT and Marks & Spencer and other users are looking to IT for solutions, according to a conference on the commercial risks of climate change

The IT and communications industry can help the rest of the world tackle global warming, according to speakers in an online conference on climate change risk hosted by collaboration service provider, 2degrees.

The IT industry could develop and produce low carbon technologies that would save more carbon than the capture and storage of carbon, said Donna Young, BT head of climate change, referring to research carried out last year. 

“We’ve got an ideal opportunity to help be part of the solution,” she added. “But let’s not forget that we’re also part of the problem. So, the ICT industry’s footprint may increase overall, but will be contributing to the reduction of global emissions.”

Young also said she had observed “tremendous movement” on the part of customers and US IT supplier giants, including the likes of Cisco, to include carbon impact in discussions and research and development.

“With the greening of data centres, we’ve seen huge movement on standards, which are key metrics for us in the data centre. It used to be your data centre wasn’t under warranty if you ran it above a certain temperature. But that was when magnetic tapes would stick, where it’s all digital now, so it wouldn’t happen.”

She said running warmer servers and data centres were an example of the risk assessments necessary to reduce cooling requirements and the IT power bill.

Mike Barry, head of sustainable business for Marks & Spencer added that it was companies in the US, India and China who had taken up the gauntlet set down by its 100-point sustainability Plan A mandates.

“Carbon is a rapidly emerging issue,” he said. “Unless you are really on top of your game, you’ll be losing our business. But it’s also those who actively bring us lower carbon innovations that will help grow our business.”

Sunny Sehgal, HSBC Sustainable Insurance senior manager advised businesses to incorporate any climate change activity into existing enterprise risk frameworks to impose and maintain a system of governance that takes all business processes into account.

But Jon Williams, a partner in the Sustainability & Climate Change division at PricewaterhouseCoopers went further and suggested IT would be key to prioritising investment in low carbon projects according to their material value to the business.

“The data hasn’t historically been available [to map climate change risk onto business models], but that’s getting better,” he said, “And an understanding that you need to use a probabilistic approach to analysis rather than look for definite outcomes.”