Resilient pathways: the adaptation of the ICT sector to climate change

This report explores the impacts of climate change on the information and communication technology (ICT) sector and the potential for adaptation, including the need for new standards to be developed

Climate change has risen rapidly up the agenda of international organizations, governments, communities and industry sectors in the past decade, reflecting the growing impact of climatic manifestations at multiple levels.
With the potential to become a major disruptive factor in the achievement of economic growth and development over the next fifty years, climate change is playing an increasing role in processes of policy design, strategy implementation, livelihood maintenance and business practices around the globe.
Simultaneously, ICT has been diffusing widely, and redefining the way in which information and knowledge are generated, captured and stored, processed and disseminated among an increasingly inter-connected society.
While the ICT contribution to the abatement of carbon emissions, energy efficiency, monitoring climate-related patterns and events, and implementing adaptive practices (among other climate-related responses) has been explored since the early 2000s, much less is known about the adaptation of the ICT sector itself to climate change impacts.
This report responds to the need of exploring further the effects of climate change on the ICT sector. It aims to raise awareness of the need to design and implement strategies for the sector to better prepare for, respond and adjust to the impacts of short- and long-term climatic manifestations. It gives an overview of the impacts, opportunities and challenges posed by climate change to sector stakeholders; it identifies existing and emerging adaptive measures and provides suggested actions to strengthen the ICT sector’s approach to adaptation. It is intended that this report will assist countries and companies in their efforts to improve resilience to the
increasing risks and exploit opportunities posed by climate change. It is also expected that this report will foster new knowledge exchange on this topic, inform the design and implementation of adaptation strategies in the ICT sector, and contribute to further collaboration among ICT and climate change experts and practitioners at the international, national, sectoral and local levels.
The findings and suggested actions identified in this report can be relevant to a wide range of sector stakeholders, including (but not limited to) telecommunications operators, ICT manufacturers and service providers, national governments, stakeholders of other sectors, and international stakeholders such as the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and other UN specialized agencies.
This report presents the sector’s response to climatic impacts, identifying existing and emerging adaptive strategies, and suggesting areas for future action. The analysis includes examples identified through a survey conducted among key sector stakeholders involved in ICT, environmental sustainability and climate change strategies.
Adaptive approaches involve a sector-wide assessment of the potential risks and vulnerabilities relating to climate impacts, including direct impacts (e.g. flood risks, storm exposure, etc.) and indirect ones (e.g. supply chain disruptions, etc.). It also involves mechanisms to tackle the business opportunities that may emerge with changing climatic conditions (including new standards, business and consumer demands), and to develop the skills and structures required to benefit from new economic possibilities.
This report suggests that the adoption of resilient pathways towards adaptation requires going beyond generic contingency and risk management measures. The ICT sector needs to identify and implement specific actions to manage current threats, responding flexibly and adjusting innovatively to future impacts.
The sector’s approach to adaptation could be enhanced by adopting measures that strengthen a set of core resilience attributes, including the sector’s robustness, self-organization, learning, redundancy, flexibility and diversity, rapidity and scale.

New standards to foster adaptive action in the sector are discussed. It is intended that this report could act as source of input to standards on the ICT sector and its adaptation to climate change. Examples of a suggested Climate Change Adaptation Risk Assessment Checklist, Adaptation Options and a Climate Change Adaptation Plan are included which could be extended for inclusion in standards.
This report concludes that climate change will cause unavoidable impacts that will affect the ICT sector both directly and indirectly. Within this context, adaptive practices will increasingly become part of the “new normal” for business operations around the world, including those of the ICT sector.
It is expected that this report will contribute to further research on issues, inter alia, as novel adaptation strategies, business opportunities emerging from the changing climate, the contributions of the ICT sector’s adaptation to the adaptive efforts of other sectors, as well as the need for new enabling standards

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