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OECD Conference on ICTs, the Environment and Climate Change
 Helsing°r, Denmark  27 - 28 May 2009 
Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to start by thanking OECD for inviting ITU to participate in this event. I would also like to thanks our hosts the Ministry for Science Technology and Innovation for their kind hospitality.

Many organization are involved in the fight against climate change, and it is events like this thank that bring us together so we all know what we are contributing, and help us avoid duplication of effort.

ITU has had a longstanding concern about the impact of ICTs on the environment but it was only in the last two years that ITU became really active in this area following a visit by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon when he recognized ITU as “one of the most important stakeholders in terms of climate change".

In fact ITU was the first ICT global standards body – 144 years ago established to agree international standards to ensure the international interoperability of the innovative telex service. It remains the unique: a truly global partnership of 191 governments and over 700 private sector entities developing international standards and treaties on the use of ICTs.

When we initiated our activity on climate change I was often asked “What has ITU got to do with climate change”. I am pleased to say we do not often get asked that question now. I believe the relevance of ICTs to climate change is now well accepted.

Our activity on climate change was initiated by a Technology Watch Report on ICTs and Climate Change which we published at the end of 2007. This was enthusiastically received by our membership and we followed it with two very successful symposia in Kyoto and London last year.

One thing that these symposia highlighted was the variation in the estimates of the impact of ICTs on GHG emissions. The estimates of the contribution of ICTs to total GHG emissions varied from 2% to 3.5% including radiocommunications. Most significant was the estimates of how much the application of ICTs could reduce total GHG. These estimates ranged from 15% to over 40%.

The reason for this variation was that different methodologies were being used. Clearly such a wide variation of estimates led to some skepticism as to the impact of ICTs. ITU has consequently put a lot of effort into developing an internationally agreed common methodology and a Focus Group open to all interested parties was established last July to come up with a common methodology. I am pleased to say that this was successful and the Focus Group presented its final report a couple of weeks ago.

A new Environment and Climate Change Study Group will now take this work forward starting this week and convert it into formal ITU standards. This should not take long since the hard work has been done and our approval process in ITU is one of the fastest of any standards body.

The group will consider a range of issues including recycling, renewal of use, harmful effect and application of ICTs in buildings, transportation etc. We very much welcome contributions to this work in particular those entities that participated in our Focus Group. We are also keen to involve academia and research establishments in our work.

ITU also regulates the use of the radio spectrum and provides the frequencies for remote sensing (active and passive) for environmental observation, which can be used to forecast weather and warn the public in the case of natural disasters and to gather information on dynamic environmental processes and systems, working closely with the World Metrological Organisation.

In order to achieve our own commitment to climate neutrality, ITU has introduced a number of initiatives:
  • Many of our meetings are now totally paperless and we make extensive use of remote working tools
  • For example our Focus Group on Climate Change had 28 conference calls and only three physical meetings
  • Our Recommendations are now freely available on-line
  • We have conducted an energy audit and are actively seeking to reduce our carbon footprint
  • We webcast most of our workshops and seminars
  • And we are organizing the first virtual Symposium on Climate Change next September with the Korean government
ITU also helps countries to adapt to the effects of climate change. Fostering use of emergency telecommunications for countries struck by extreme weather events. We also need to sensitise the consumer to the need to change their behavior.

And our Telecommunication Standardisation Sector is developing more energy efficiency standards. Next Generation Networks for example will provide an estimated 40% power saving over the current PSTN.
ITU is also leading the Dynamic Coalition on Internet and Climate Change (DCICC) as part of Internet Governance Forum and will convene its second meeting and host a workshop at the IGF in Egypt in November. DCICC now has 22 members including OECD.
And of course, ITU being a UN agency is a key part of the overall UN effort on tackling climate change. We are making every effort therefore to convey the message to global leaders of the importance of recognizing the role of ICTs in any future agreements, such as the one expected to be agreed here in December in Copenhagen.
Meeting these commitments includes the need for common reporting formats and methodologies to calculate national GHG emissions. In turn, agreed methodologies for calculations in the ICT sector can be based on our global standard.
While it was not formally part of the Kyoto process, now we have a common approach to calculating the impact of ICTs on climate change, it could be taken into account in future agreements.

Even if one takes the most conservative estimate of the reduction in total GHG emissions that can be achieved through the application of ICTs over the next 10 years, it equates to something like the current level of emissions of the United States or China.

Clearly then this is a significant contribution to the global effort to combat climate change.

 

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Updated : 2009-06-02