Evaluating the carbon reducing impacts of ICT - an assessment methodology

A practical and consistent Methodology, Tool and roadmap for assessing ICT’s capacity to enable the transition to a low-carbon economy.

One of the GeSI's missions is to develop methodology and standards to measure and cut the carbon footprint of the ICT sector and other industries through innovative technology. This report fulfils this mission by proposing a methodology for identifying and quantifying the impacts of ICT adoption.

This methodology uses an LCA approach to guide the assessment of changes to the BAU system resulting from adoption of an ICT solution (the BAU, or business-as-usual, system refers to the components in the existing manual, mechanical or physical processes that are impacted by the implementation of the ICT solution).
As this methodology was developed to assess the capacity of ICT implementation to reduce the carbon footprint of other sectors, it focuses on quantifying CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) emissions. It does not assess other important environmental impact categories
such as acidification, eutrophication, or land use, although the methodology could potentially be adapted in the future to consider these impacts.
The ICT Enablement Methodology goes further than a typical product or service LCA, which considers life cycle stages and processes
of a single system. In addition to the direct life cycle emissions of an ICT system, the methodology considers the emissions saved or
generated by various enabling and rebound effects resulting from changes to the BAU system. Enabling effects are those that reduce
emissions in non-ICT sectors; rebound effects are those that increase emissions, thus offsetting the emission reductions.11 Rebound effects are typically changes within the BAU system, though may also result from increased use of the ICT system above its intended use to mitigate non-ICT sector emissions.
Assessing the emissions generated by both the ICT and BAU systems is far more complex than conducting a single-system LCA. However, the ICT Enablement Methodology simplifies the process of quantifying the net enabling effects of ICT wherever possible without sacrificing comprehensiveness or accuracy. For the purposes of this report, assessment is inclusive of both measurement (the collection and observation of quantifiable data) and estimation (the establishment of data via assumptionbased modeling). Note that quantification of enabling effects may involve either or both
forms of assessment.
The ICT Enablement Methodology consists of three major steps: (1) defining the goal and scope of the study, (2) limiting the life cycle
processes of relevant components identified in Step 1, and (3) assessing and interpreting the net enabling effect. These steps are introduced briefly below, with greater explanation and context provided in subsequent sections of the report.

The report supplements the evidence documented in the SMART 2020 report of the important role that ICT, through its enabling effect, can play in reducing global carbon emissions and recognizes the response of GeSI members to calls for action. GeSI members have understood the magnitude of both the challenges and the opportunities and, together, they will help speed up the process of moving to a low carbon economy. By establishing a consistent methodology and roadmap for measuring ICT’s low-carbon enablement capacity, this report represents an important step toward realizing our sector’s potential contribution in the fight against climate change. It is therefore our responsibility to promote the methodology, to engage others, and to ensure that the ICT industry as a whole adopts it and implements it fully. 

GeSI believes that its proposed enablement methodology makes significant improvements over existing approaches, facilitating simplified assessments with strong potential for increased ease and automation via future enhancements. Moreover, it believes the methodology will complement and support other future efforts, including those of ITU.
Promoting a single methodological framework will also require endorsement from leading organizations within the ICT sector. GeSI
believes its ICT Enablement Methodology has strong industry backing and that its adoption, by both GeSI members and non-members, will demonstrate its value and establish a base from which the method will continue to evolve. However, to gain general acceptance, the methodology must reflect the specific needs of the ICT industry and other private and public sectors for both accuracy and ease of application.
GeSI has identified a number of key criteria in this regard. In particular, the assessment process should consider all impacts on carbon-emissions, but limit rigorous assessment to those effects and life cycle processes with significant emission impact. Considering the complexities of the ICT sector, reducing the time and resources the assessment process requires will drive broader adoption of a single methodology.

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