ITU Forms New Group to Focus on Telecom Impact on Climate Change
Geneva, 11 July 2008 — Responding to an industry call, ITU has set up a new group to work on standards related to the impact of information and communication technologies (ICT) on climate change. The new group will focus in particular on the reduction of ICT emissions and how ICTs can assist in cutting emissions in other industry sectors such as energy, transportation and buildings.
Since the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol, in December 1997, the number of ICT users has tripled worldwide. It is estimated that the ICT sector produces between two to three per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. But ICTs are also seen as a part of the solution to the climate change challenge.
ICTs could help cut global emissions by between 15 to 40 per cent, depending on the methodology used to make these estimates. Two recent ITU symposia on ICTs and climate change in Kyoto in April and in London in June this year drew attention to the wide variation in these estimates. A key objective of the Focus Group will be to develop internationally agreed methodologies to describe and estimate the impact of ICTs on climate change, both directly and through their application in other industry sectors.
The importance of ICT standardization to deal with this global issue was acknowledged following the very successful Kyoto and London symposia, and a study by the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) — a group comprised of key technology companies and organizations, including ITU. The reports of the two symposia were submitted to the G8 Summit held in Hokkaido, Japan, on 7-9 July 2008.
Participants in the symposia — representing ICT companies from around the world — as well as the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, called on ITU to increase its activities in ICTs and climate change. In a message to the London symposium, Mr Ban commended ITU for working with partners inside and outside the UN family to give high priority to actions in this field. "The information and communication technology sector has much to offer in creating a cleaner, greener world. But it must also apply international standards in reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions," Mr Ban said.
ITU has moved quickly to create the new Focus Group on ICTs and Climate Change, with an ambitious work plan to conclude by April 2009.
ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun I. Touré said he was "very appreciative of the drive that has come from the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector on this topic, paving the way for the establishment of the Focus Group". Dr Touré went on to underline that: "Climate change is one of the major issues of our time and the key role that ITU is playing in addressing the issue has been acknowledged by the UN Secretary-General. ICTs are a contributor to global warming, but more importantly they are the key to monitoring and mitigating its effects."
Malcolm Johnson, Director of ITU's Telecommunication Standardization Bureau issued a call to arms for the world’s ICT companies and others following the announcement of the Focus Group. "We have heard from industry and from the UN Secretary-General that ITU must tackle this issue of global importance. I encourage all interested parties to participate. This group is open to all and I encourage contributions from the ICT sector as well as other industry sectors, research institutes, and any other specialists in this field," he said.
Work will start immediately using electronic means, and the group will meet physically for the first time at ITU headquarters in Geneva on 1-3 September 2008 under the chairmanship of David Faulkner of BT.
"We must remind ourselves that this is only a first step on the long road to finding and implementing global solutions to the challenge of climate change through the use of ICTs. What is important now is how we act and follow up on the momentum we have created," Mr Johnson said.
ITU is expected to conduct most of its work using remote collaboration tools to the maximum extent, and collocation with other meetings, to minimize its own emissions.
Presentations from the Kyoto and London symposia can be viewed here. The GeSI study on facilitating the low-carbon economy in the information age has been published highlighting the role that standards will play.
A webpage for the Focus Group will be made available shortly, please visit the ITU-T homepage.
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| Sanjay Acharya |
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