An outcome document asks that ITU, as the UN specialized agency for ICTs, lead a coalition urging COP-17 delegates to look to the enormous potential of ICT solutions to cut emissions across all sectors. The document calls for the adoption of a ‘closed loop’ approach to manufacturing and recycling which will reduce the need to extract and process raw materials. It also asks for recognition of the value of ICTs in monitoring deforestation, crop patterns and other environmental phenomena.
Specific mention of ICTs in the COP-17 negotiating text, along with the adoption of an agreed methodology for measuring the carbon footprint of ICT equipment and its inclusion in National Adaptation/Mitigation Plans, would provide an incentive to the ICT industry to invest in developing countries, help reduce the digital divide, and at the same time help fight climate change – a win-win scenario. ITU is already actively developing a methodology that could serve as a reliable and accurate global benchmark for assessing the carbon footprint of a wide range of ICT equipment.
Dr Hamadoun Tour, Secretary General, ITU, stressed ITU’s commitment to providing the technical know-how to mitigate and adapt to climate change. “It is now clear to most observers that ICTs have a very important role to play here. Recognition of this at the international level will provide countries with a solid argument to roll out climate change strategies with a strong ICT element,” he said.
Speaking at the opening of the Ghana symposium, Malcolm Johnson, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, said: “Today, a world without ICTs is unthinkable. ICTs are integrated into almost all parts of our society and economy. Yet while the increasingly widespread use of ICTs has changed people’s lives dramatically and boosted economic growth, the success of technology means it is itself a growing contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, ICTs probably provide the most significant opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the major high emissions industries of energy generation, waste disposal, building and transport. This is a message we must carry to COP-17.”
During the event, ITU launched a project on ICTs and climate change in Ghana which will be based on two pillars. The first will look at how ICTs can be used to help Ghana adapt to the effects of climate change, and will be led by the Ministry of Communications and sponsored by Research in Motion (RIM). The second, which will be led by Ghana’s Environment Protection Agency (EPA) with sponsorship from Vodafone Ghana, will look at how telecommunications in Ghana can reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). This project will pilot, for the first time, the ITU methodology on Environmental Assessment for the ICT Sector.
The Ghana event was the sixth ITU Symposium on ICTs, the Environment and Climate Change, following successful events in Kyoto, London, Quito, Seoul and Cairo, beginning in 2008. It was the first to address the broader issue of sustainable development, identifying a number of possible recommendations from the ICT sector that could be presented to the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD 2012 or Rio+20). It was opened by John Dramani Mahama, Vice-President of the Republic of Ghana, and welcomed over 350 delegates from around the world, as well as some 40 people participating remotely.