The wheels are still spinning when it comes to recognition of ICTs as, potentially, a major mitigator of climate change. Listen to the output from any major climate change summit and you'll hear very little on ICT. The ITU, however, is still pressing home the case. By Ian Scales.
It might be that the language is the problem - not strident enough. Organisations like the ITU, clogged by the need to be diplomatic and measured, tend to come up with calls to arms such as: "[The report] calls for the inclusion of ICTs in national mitigation plans. And it concludes quoting from a communiqué from ITU to COP-16 (in Cancun, Mexico, from 29 November to 10 December 2010) “delegates are urged to look to ICTs in the context of their own sectoral emissions to take maximum advantage of the power of ICTs to reduce emissions worldwide and to enhance action on adaptation, taking into account the needs of developing countries.”
It hardly makes the heart beat faster, does it?
The fact is that ICT, in all its guises, will almost certainly prove to be the big Santa, not the little helper, when it comes to mitigating climate change. We believe that, the ITU experts certainly believe that, the rest of the green movement doesn't seem to have latched on, as time after time ICTs are practically ignored at major climate change summits.
And so it was deja vu all over again at the recent 16th Conference of Parties (COP16) in Cancun. Nary a mention, despite all the evidence as laid out in a report just launched by ITU and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), on Using ICTs in tackling climate change.
Here's the basic thrust. ICTs work, not just in the quest to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but in helping countries adapt to climate change as it arrives.
ICT is using itself to drive down its own emissions (less power-hungry kit and better housing); it is being used to help other sectors cut their emissions; plus it is instrumental in monitoring weather and other environmental conditions. Without that, no climate change science, no strategy, no future.
The report notes that for every watt of energy saved by a billion end users of ICT equipment, a whole power plant is no longer required, while things like “smart” grids can make sure that electricity is distributed with much less wastage.
Essentially climate change won't be headed off by trimming consumption and doing less, it will be beaten by technical innovation and doing more. In effect, IT can be transformational for just about every other sector. Let's hope the message gets through.
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