Focus Group on ICTs and Climate Change
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
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.