ITU has underlined its key role in green ICT with a raft of announcements today by Study Group 5 of its Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T).
A meeting of the group in Seoul, Korea has seen agreement on a globally-recognized set of methodologies to assess the environmental impact of information and communications technology (ICT). It also saw agreement to produce a report on due diligence guidelines for conflict minerals supply, and to study environmental protection and recycling solutions for batteries for mobile phones and other ICT devices.
Estimates of how much ICTs can reduce global emissions – and estimates of the emissions generated by the ICT sector itself – still vary widely, due to the application of different measurement methodologies. After the problem was raised by delegates to ITU’s ‘ICTs and Climate Change’ symposium in 2008, ITU took on the challenge and has pioneered adoption of a new globally-agreed set of standards.
To ensure consistency between different approaches, the new methodology has been developed in cooperation with other standardization organizations such as ISO, IEC, ETSI and ATIS. The new methodology is also aligned with the Digital Agenda of the European Commission.
Dr Hamadoun Touré, Secretary General, ITU: “This methodology has been developed by ITU's industry members. This will be important in ensuring it gains wide acceptance by the world's ICT industry. An internationally agreed methodology means estimates of the impact of ICTs on greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption will now have much greater credibility. It will also show just how significant a contribution ICTs can make by reducing global emissions in other sectors.”
Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission: “I'm pleased that the industry is taking the task of measuring its own footprint so seriously. And I'm pleased that the ITU, as a UN agency, is doing such good work facilitating negotiations, reaching out globally to industry sub-sectors and to other standardization initiatives.”
New guidelines on conflict minerals
New ITU work on ‘conflict minerals’ will also begin in response to a request from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). ITU will make a survey of existing due diligence requirements and guidelines concerning sources of conflict minerals (in particular, those that are smelted into tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold), as well as their use in conformity with recognized international treaties and national legislation, where this exists.
Rare earth minerals are used in consumer electronics products such as mobile phones, DVD players, video games and computers. The report will provide guidance to ICT entities seeking to exercise due diligence on, and formalize the origin and chain of custody of, conflict minerals used in their products and on their suppliers to ensure that conflict minerals used in their products do not directly or indirectly finance armed conflict or result in labour or human rights violations. Agreement to address this issue demonstrates the ICT industry’s commitment to sustainability at all levels of the value chain.
Following on from the success of ITU’s Universal Charging Solution for mobile devices (Recommendation ITU-T L.1000), the meeting also agreed to study the benefits and disadvantages of the standardization of batteries for mobile terminals and other ICT devices, looking at energy efficiency over the battery life cycle, eco-design information, battery lifetime and exchangeability, safety and environmental protection, recycling and reuse. This could lead to a reduction of harmful materials used in batteries and an increased lifespan of ICT products. Battery manufacturers, device manufacturers, operators and users will all benefit, say experts.
Ahmed Zeddam, Chairman of ITU-T Study Group 5: “This has been the most productive and significant meeting in the long history of Study Group 5. Twelve new important standards have been agreed, including many critical to methodologies to assess the environmental impact of ICT and the protection of home networks and next generation network (NGN) equipment from electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) and environmental effects. The meeting also saw revisions to a key set of standards on resistibility to overvoltages or overcurrents of telecoms equipment. ITU is the only organization producing these important global standards.”
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