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 Saturday, November 07, 2009
ITU’s delegation to the UNFCCC Barcelona Climate Change talks has succeeded in raising awareness of ICTs as a key part of the climate change solution. In particular developing countries were receptive to the message and recognize the power of ICTs, also linking the issue to the digital divide.

At a side event jointly organized by ITU, OECD and GeSI equitable access and ensuring connectivity to schools, rural communities and health facilities were recognized as vital to economic development and to making effective use of ICTs to combat climate change.

Speaking at the event, Malcolm Johnson, Director of ITU’s standardization bureau said: “It is generally accepted that by 2050 global greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced by some 80%. We can no longer talk in terms of incremental reductions of 5-10%. There is also a growing understanding that there is only one way that this can be achieved: by shifting from a high carbon physical infrastructure to a low carbon virtual infrastructure based on the evolving information society and smart technology – what we call information and communication technologies (ICTs).“

ITU will produce a communiqué that will be distributed to ITU Member States as well as parties involved in the negotiating process. One of the problems identified in the side event was that while communications ministries are aware of the link between ICTs and climate change this message is often not filtering through to environment ministries.

The following issues arose at the side event
  • The capabilities of ICTs to monitor, measure and exchange huge amounts of information and their sheer ubiquity underlines their fundamental role in improving environmental performance.

  • The  message that ICTs are a major part of the solution rather than being part of the problem has to  be emphasised further. “Smart” applications in transport, buildings and urban environments, energy generation and distribution and production are, and will increasingly be, ICT-enabled.

  • In the utility sectors ICTs can provide better information, increase efficiency, and thereby reduce emissions.

  • There needs to be a coming together of the ICT Sector with the other industry sectors that have traditionally been separate communities, in order to ensure the best use of ICTs. 

  • Developing countries should participate more in international programmes that support the development and use of common performance standards, testing, verification and certification programmes.

  • IPR policies related to global standards need to be addressed.

  • Dumping is a major concern for developing countries. Greater emphasis is needed on recycling, reduction of hazardous substances in ICTs, and refurbishment.

  • Life cycle methodologies for the ICT sector within the UNFCCC will be essential if ICTs are to play a significant role in climate change.

  • ICTs can only assist in mitigating and adapting to climate change if they are widely available. There is a clear link between bridging the digital divide and climate change. There should be incentives within the UNFCCC to the ICT industry to invest in developing countries, in particular bringing the benefits of broadband technology to schools, hospitals, and businesses. 

  • Including reference to the ICT/Telecommunication sector in the sectoral part of the negotiating text would enable a life cycle methodology to be included in the Clean Development Mechanism. This 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.

For video archive of ITU media briefing in Barcelona:
See also TelecomTV coverage including:
And Computer Weekly:

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