UN Secures IT’s Role In Limited Copenhagen Agreements

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Even getting IT on the agenda at the UN talks was a “painful challenge” according to insiders

Despite being labeled largely a failure in terms of securing a legally binding international agreement over curbing carbon emissions, there were some small successes at Copenhagen in terms of highlighting the importance of IT in helping tackle climate change according to UN insiders.

In an email sent to eWEEK Europe UK, UN agency International Telecommunications Union (ITU) liaison officer OECD, Catalina McGregor said that her organisation had managed to negotiate the inclusion of references to IT in UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) documents resulting from the Copenhagen negotiations. The documents refer to “existing technology, technology transfer and financial support” and “future technologies, cordination and development of new technologies”, said McGregor.

“We started with nothing 8 weeks ago in Barcelona. It was discouraging and difficult. No one had any idea what ICT could do to help deliver and just getting ‘ICT as an enabler’ on the Agenda was a painful challenge,” she said. “Today with COP 15 behind us I can announce that the UN ITU have obtained the key insertions we were looking for. It has been a success but it took determined appeals accross many boundaries and groups both large and small. The COP 15 environment is exactly as the PM recently said it was- ‘a truly complex negotiating process’ on every front.”

In November, McGregor and other UN insiders voiced concerns about the lack of awareness and inclusion of the role of IT in climate change in the documents released ahead of the Copenhagen talks. “We need IT on the COP15 agenda,” said McGregor. “The funding door may close if it is not there.”

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McGregor (on the right), who is also founder of the UK government’s Green ICT delivery unit, has also revealed details of a Green ICT workbook which includes the latest version of the EU code of conduct for data centres, as well as advice on how to reduce emissions in every area of ICT, from printers to mobile phones which is planned for release in January. The government’s recommendations are based on research from a number of countries. The ITU has completed a standard methodology for measuring the energy consumption of individual products throughout their life cycle – from manufacture right through to disposal – and will now expand that model to include raw materials, packaging and transport.

Speaking ahead of the Copenhagen talks, Malcolm Johnson (left), director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB), said that a team of ITU experts will work proactively with delegates at the talks for the duration of the two-week event to raise awareness of the importance of ICTs. The TSB also stated that it is working with industry leaders to develop a standardised international methodology for measuring ICT carbon footprint, and hopes to seal an agreement on this new methodology in April 2010.

Also speaking ahead of the conference, ITU secretary-general Dr Hamadoun Touré, urged COP15 delegates to consider how ICT could be used to reduce emissions worldwide. “Put simply, ICT is the single most powerful tool humankind has at its disposal to avoid potential climate catastrophe.”


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