ITU To Highlight Green Role Of ICTs At COP17

The International Telecommunication Union will back IT’s green credentials at the UN’s next climate conference

The ITU will urge world leaders to recognise the power of information technologys (ICTs) to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change, at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP17) in South Africa in November.

Attendees at the ITU’s Symposium on ICTs and Climate Change in Ghana this week said that potential of ICT solutions to cut emissions across all sectors must be highlighted at COP17. In particular, they called for recognition of the value of ICTs in monitoring deforestation, crop patterns and other environmental phenomena.

“It is now clear to most observers that ICTs have a very important role to play here,” said ITU secretary general Dr Hamadoun Tourév (pictured below). “Recognition of this at the international level will provide countries with a solid argument to roll out climate change strategies with a strong ICT element.”

Stepping up the fight against climate change

The ITU – which is the UN agency for the information and communication technologies industry – said that ICTs should be given a specific mention in the COP17 negotiating text. It is hoped that this will provide an incentive for the ICT industry to invest in developing countries, help reduce the digital divide, and fight climate change.

“Today, a world without ICTs is unthinkable,” said Malcolm Johnson, director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau. “ICTs are integrated into almost all parts of our society and economy. Yet while the increasingly widespread use of ICTs has changed people’s lives dramatically and boosted economic growth, the success of technology means it is itself a growing contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

“On the other hand, ICTs probably provide the most significant opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the major high emissions industries of energy generation, waste disposal, building and transport. This is a message we must carry to COP17,”  Johnson added.

The ITU is already developing a methodology for measuring the carbon footprint of ICT equipment, which it hopes will serve as a reliable and accurate global benchmark. The agency has also launched a project on ICTs and climate change in Ghana, which looks at how ICTs can be used to help the country adapt to the effects of climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

UK spending cuts cripple green growth

A report by the ITU and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative in December 2010 found that ICTs can help tackle the problem of climate change both by driving down emissions in the technology sector – using more efficient equipment and providing better waste management – and improving energy efficiency in other sectors, by reducing their energy needs.

However, government spending cuts in the UK threaten to cripple many first-generation green IT projects. Compass Management Consulting warned in October that environmentally-friendly IT projects may be axed as cost-cutting measures are implemented in the current financial climate.

UK Chancellor‎ George Osborne faced calls earlier this year from a consortium of business leaders – including Microsoft and BT – to set out a comprehensive green growth strategy. The group published an open letter pointing out that the UK was losing momentum to emerging economies in green sectors.

But according to Fujitsu’s ‘Green IT: Global Benchmark’ report, the UK is leading the way in the adoption of green IT practices, and Great Britain PLC boasts a green IT index higher than the US, Australia and India.

The government has reiterated its target of becoming ‘the greenest government ever‘, and in October announced £1 billion in funding for a Green Investment Bank, which will provide financial interventions to unlock significant new private investment in green infrastructure projects.