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Focus Group on ICTs and Climate Change
 Hiroshima, Japan  24 March 2009 
It is a great pleasure to be here today at the third and final meeting of the Focus Group on ICTs and Climate Change.

Let me start by thanking our Japanese hosts for once again welcoming us to Japan during cherry blossom season. The idea for this Focus Group originated during last year’s cherry blossom season in Kyoto. We have come a long way in a short time, and now we can look forward to the Focus Group concluding its work during the cherry blossom season of Hiroshima.

What better symbol of the fragile beauty of Mother Nature than the delicate cherry blossom? This year’s season is starting unusually early, itself an indication of the urgency we must attach to our work.

Hiroshima is a testament to the destructive power of mankind, and nature, but it is now a recognized centre for promoting world peace and addressing social and public policy issues. It is an appropriate venue to discuss the issue of climate change, recognized by the UN Secretary-General as the moral issue of our time.

The Symposium in Kyoto, and the following event in London, provided vivid examples of the way in which ICTs can play an important role in reducing total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The Symposium also recognized the important role that global standards can play in enabling the ICT industry to not only minimise its own carbon footprint, but also to limit and reduce emissions in other sectors.

What became clear however is that there were wide-ranging estimates of what that impact might be, which of course reduces the credibility of these claims. This led to the creation of this Focus Group by TSAG last July. The prime objective was to develop an internationally standardized methodology for calculating this impact, both in direct and indirect terms.

Last year, 37 countries had to start meeting their binding commitments under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce their GHG emissions. For most of these countries, including some represented here today, this means that reductions of 6-8 percent against the baseline year of 1990 must be achieved by 2012.

Meeting those commitments includes the need for common reporting formats and methodologies to calculate national GHG emissions. In turn, agreed methodologies can be based on global standards.

While not formally part of the Kyoto process, common approaches to calculating the impact of ICTs are vital to ensure coherent and effective solutions to reduce GHG emissions.

It is clear that 2009 will be a significant year in addressing the challenge of climate change. The UN talks on a new treaty are scheduled to conclude in Copenhagen this December, just nine months from now.

New scientific evidence supports the urgency of addressing global warming. Just a few weeks ago, several thousand scientists and policy makers gathered in Copenhagen to review the scientific research since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report of 2007. Some of the main findings clearly show the urgency of climate change. For example sea levels may be rising 50% more than predicted; global emissions of CO2 are rising faster than estimated and could lead to temperature increases of as much as 6 degrees by the end of the century, far beyond the 2 degrees considered to be the maximum for sustainability.

Faced with this evidence, we cannot be content to sit and tell one another that ICTs can mitigate climate change. We must demonstrate our case with hard facts and figures.

The financial and economic crisis sweeping the globe has hampered investments for alternative technologies, while placing ever greater stress on the business case for going green.

Fortunately, national stimulus packages are beginning to realize that rebuilding infrastructure can be done in a more environmentally-friendly manner. We must also make sure that the message that investment in broadband has a strong role to play in reducing climate change is heard.

Even conservative estimates show a significant contribution can be made through the application of ICTs. Companies can exercise corporate social responsibility while also improving efficiency and reducing costs.

That is why this week is critical for the Focus Group.

Not only have we traveled a long distance from Kyoto to London to Geneva to Hiroshima, but the Group has also traveled a long way in terms of hard work, written contributions and output and lengthy discussions.

The Focus Group has held 3 physical meetings. Close to 100 written contributions have been received and presented, as well as tutorials, case studies, and liaison statements. ITU Study groups have been surveyed and the results will be presented later this week.

The four baseline texts total close to 200 pages and the Executive Summary has passed the 10 page mark. Numerous conference calls have been held, 14 persons serve on the Management Committee and 25 persons have played a role as editors and co-editors. This is a fully open group, and it has benefitted from the input not only of ITU Member States and Sector Members, but from academia and representatives of other organisations as well.

But we are not yet finished.

In fact the most important element is left for this meeting to finalise: Deliverable 3 on the appropriate methodology that should be used to measure the impact of ICTs on climate change.

It does not have to be a perfect methodology. Not a methodology that addresses every conceivable scenario or possibility. But a methodology that is agreed by all and that provides a common and well-understood approach that can be a key part of national commitments to reduce GHG emissions and to measure the impact of ICTs in reducing emissions in other sectors.

We need to agree on ways to measure the impact of videoconferencing, travel substitution, dematerialization, monitoring etc. A common methodology will help establish the business case and can ultimately be beneficial to informed consumer choices and climate-friendly business procurement.

A clear message from Hiroshima will enable the ITU Telecommunications Standardisation Advisory Group (TSAG) to make the best decision as to future work in ITU-T on climate change when it meets in April. It will explain what has been accomplished, and what issues still need to be addressed, and where work can start on converting your work into ITU-T Recommendations.

ITU being a UN agency, is a key part of the overall UN effort on tackling climate change. This work can be the means by which the ICT industry conveys its message to global leaders on the importance of recognizing the role of ICTs in any future agreements.

Climate change was one of the highest profile subjects at the World Telecommunication Standardisation Assembly last October. The side event on climate change attracted great interest, and the Assembly adopted the first ITU Resolution on the subject. Resolution 73 on ICTs and Climate Change encourages the membership to work towards reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in line with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. An agreed methodology is essential to meet that commitment. This was reported to the High Level Session of the ITU Council last November.

So the work of the Focus Group has been given great publicity and there is great expectation that the Focus group will deliver on time. Please set aside any differences and recognize the urgency of this task and reach consensus on a clear message to be sent to TSAG and to the ITU membership.

With these excellent facilities and support provided by our hosts, and in the spirit and tradition of goodwill and compromise that has always marked the ITU, let us each dedicate ourselves to the task at hand, so that this coming Friday will be a major moment for the ICT community in finding ways to address climate change.

I want to express my appreciation to all of you for your hard work and great effort in bring the deliverables to this point. In particular, I wish to thank the editors, co-editors, vice-chairmen and especially the Chairman of the Group, Dave Faulkner, whose passionate commitment to this cause has been apparent from the outset and has driven the process forward. The support of his company BT, the hosts of the London symposium, should also be recognised.

And once again let me thank our hosts. We appreciate very much the tremendous support Japan has given ITU on the subject of ICTs and climate change, both the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the Japanese industry, the Telecommunication Technology Committee (TTC), and the ITU Association of Japan.

I wish you a successful and enjoyable conclusion to your work this week, and I hope to see you participating in the future on-going work in ITU-T on ICTs and climate change.

Thank you for your attention.
 

 

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