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Luis Neves

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Providing the solution to the climate change challenge: the role of ICT in driving a sustainable future

Luis Neves | December 3, 2012

The most recent climate change findings are alarming. The accumulation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the Earth’s atmosphere is growing faster than originally predicted. If nothing is done, global GHG emissions are projected to rise by 12 per cent to 55 GtCO2e by 2020 and by 63 per cent over current levels to 80 GtCO2e by 2050.  COP18, taking place in Doha, Qatar from 26 November to 7  December, provides one more opportunity for governments to discuss how they can reduce GHG emissions and prevent the catastrophic effects of climate change.

But with every challenge comes opportunity. GeSI’s new report, launched on 3 December at COP18, demonstrates how the increased use of information and communication technology (ICT) could cut the projected 2020 global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 16.5%, amounting to $1.9 trillion in gross energy and fuel savings and a reduction of 9.1 Gigatonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) of greenhouse gases.

The SMARTer2020 report evaluates GHG abatement potential from ICT-enabled solutions ranging across six sectors of the economy: power, transportation, manufacturing, consumer and service, agriculture, and buildings. Emission reductions come from virtualisation initiatives such as cloud computing and video conferencing, and also, through efficiency gains such as optimisation of variable-speed motors in manufacturing, smart livestock management to reduce methane emissions, and 32 other ICT-enabled solutions identified in the study. The combined GHG abatement potential of these solutions ICT- 9.1 (GtCO2e) by 2020- is equivalent to more than seven times the ICT sector’s emissions in the same period.

The challenge facing many ICT-enabled abatement solutions is the lack of robust policies to address climate change. More than ever, concerted action by global policy makers is needed to encourage the implementation of ICT abatement solutions and to ensure that the transformational change that ICT services and solutions can support will happen. The SMARTer2020 report includes detailed national studies of the GHG abatement potential of ICT in seven countries, identifying how ICT is a critical tool in facilitating the transition to a low-carbon economy and providing specific guidance to policy makers on actions they can take to realize the significant GHG reduction potential outlined in the report.

What next?

I invite and encourage all stakeholders to read the GeSI SMARTer2020 report and become educated about the ICT sector’s mission, understand and act. I urge:

  • policy makers to increase awareness and actions to integrate ICT as a fundamental component to climate change legislation, green procurement and other policy areas; 
  • other industry sectors to strongly cooperate with the ICT sector and think of ICT as a necessary component to achieve their environmental goals;
  • academics to refer to ICT’s role;
  • NGOs to seek ICT as part of the solution.

All - make ICT an inherent part of your business and policy framework.

 

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