ITU Workshop “Greening the Internet” at 4th IGF Meeting
Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt
||17 November 2009
My name is Malcolm Johnson, I am an elected official in the International
Telecommunication Union (ITU), the lead UN agency for information and
communication technologies (ICTs).
First of all on behalf of ITU, the International Institute for Sustainable
Development (IISD) and Nile University I would like to thank and welcome you
I’ll start by saying a very few words on ITU.
• coordinates the shared global use of the radio spectrum,
• promotes international coordination on use of satellite orbits,
• assists developing countries to improve their ICT infrastructure
• assigns numbers for use in telecommunication networks
• develops global ICT standards that foster seamless interconnection of a
vast range of ICT communications systems and addresses the challenges of our
times, such as cybersecurity and mitigating climate change.
I recently attended the Barcelona Climate Change negotiations on behalf of
ITU’s delegation to Barcelona succeeded in raising awareness of ICTs as a
key part of the climate change solution. There is now a specific mention of
ICTs in the text moving forward to Copenhagen.
Our Council recently adopted a Resolution calling for recognition of ICTs in
any new global agreement on climate change.
Developing countries, in particular were receptive to the message and
recognize the power of ICTs, also linking the issue to the digital divide.
ICTs can only assist in mitigating and adapting to climate change if they
are widely available.
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.
ITU will produce a communiqué that will be distributed to ITU Member States
as well as parties involved in the negotiating process in Copenhagen.
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
In Barcelona, the general opinion was 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 – based on the Internet and other information and
communication technologies (ICTs).
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.
ICTs and the Internet are the key to mitigating emissions in many sectors,
e.g. through virtual meetings, smart grids, e-governance, e-health,
intelligent transport systems, dematerialization (for example electronic
files instead of paper, downloading videos instead of DVDs etc.)
To show that ITU practices what it preaches this workshop is audio-cast via
the Internet and we recently held a virtual Symposium with more than 500
ICTs undoubtedly improve people’s lives by bringing them the benefits of the
However not everyone is benefitting. Many developing countries are still
suffering from the so called digital divide.
There is a clear link between efforts to bridge the digital divide and
efforts to combat climate change.
The cost of broadband Internet access in some developing countries is more
than 100 times that in typical developed countries.
A mechanism is needed to stimulate investment in smart technologies in
developing countries in return for carbon credits.
For this a common approach to measure the positive impact of ICTs and the
Internet is needed.
This is why ITU is developing a methodology in cooperation with many other
organizations, and the major ICT companies.
Interoperability and standardization are vitally important.
New collaborative mechanisms are needed between industry sectors that have
traditionally been separate communities.
With 191 government members and over 700 private sector members ITU is ready
and willing to contribute to this effort. It’s the kind of work that is our
In conclusion, ICTs and the Internet are a major part of the solution to
climate change, and this huge potential should be addressed here at the
Internet Governance Forum.
ITU will continue its efforts to have ICT better recognised in any
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.
ITU is also proud to lead the Dynamic Coalition on Internet and Climate
change, which held a successful meeting yesterday and which has grown to 31
entities over the past year.
We have an excellent panel of speakers this morning and I look forward to
hearing their thoughts on this… timely and important topic.