World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS): High Level Panel in Climate Change and ICTs
20 May 2009
Excellencies, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be here today to open this High Level Event on
Climate Change and ICTs and to have so many distinguished speakers present.
ITU is proud to have been the UN agency that organized the two phases of
WSIS in 2003 and 2005. But while WSIS was meant to be forward –looking, and
did address environmental concerns, not much attention was give to the issue
of climate change.
On environmental issues WSIS focused on three areas:
Later today, the Action Line C7 will hold its meeting which will look
specifically at these issues.
- using ICTs for environmental protection and the sustainable use of natural
- environmentally safe disposal and recycling of discarded hardware and
components used in ICTs;
- monitoring the impact of natural and man-made disasters.
This morning however we will directly address climate change, which has
become a major part of UN activities and Delivering as One.
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.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in his visit to ITU in 2007 stated that
“Climate change is the moral challenge of our generation” and he recognized
ITU as “one of the most important stakeholders in terms of climate change"
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 study
group on Environment and Climate Change (ITU-T Study Group 5) will now take
this work forward starting next week and convert it into formal ITU-T
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.
Last year’s World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly adopted the
first ever ITU Resolution on ICTs and Climate Change (Resolution 73) which
emphasizes the importance of this work and calls on the ITU membership to
work towards the reduction in emissions of GHGs arising from the use of ICTs
that are necessary to meet the goals of the UNFCCC.
The recent World Telecommunication Policy Forum also adopted an Opinion
which calls for the study by ITU of environmentally safe disposal and
recycling of discarded ICT equipment and facilities. I am pleased to say
this has been included in the terms of reference of the new study group..
This is a big issue. It is estimated that 100 million Europeans replace
their mobile phone every year. PCs are replaced every few years. Not only
does this create considerable waste, but it also means that perfectly good
equipment is being dumped that could be reconditioned and shipped to less
developed countries where people cannot afford to buy new.
WTPF also called for continuing support of the work of ITU-R in the use of
the 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 in accordance with relevant Resolutions adopted by
Radiocommunication Assemblies and World Radiocommunication Conferences;
In order to achieve our own commitment to climate neutrality, ITU has
introduced a number of initiatives:
Each of the ITU’s three Sectors is active on climate change issues:
- 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
- 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
Our Radio Sector regulates the radiofrequency spectrum and develops
standards to facilitate use of satellites and remote sensors for monitoring
the climate, working closely with WMO and other UN partners
Our Development Sector is helping countries to adapt to the effects of
climate change. Fostering use of emergency telecommunications for countries
struck by extreme weather events
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.
And of course, ITU being a UN agency is a key part of the overall UN effort
on tackling climate change. As the lead UN agency for ICTs and organizer of
WSIS, ITU is committed to realizing the vision of a Green Information
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 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
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.
And even it one takes the most conservative estimate of the reduction in
total GHG emissions that can be achieve 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.
The next major ITU Symposium on Climate Change will take place in Quito in
It is now my pleasure to introduce H.E. Ambassador Mauricio Montalvo,
Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of Ecuador to the UN Office in Geneva.
Denmark is the host of the Conference of the Parties that will seek to agree
on a new global agreement on climate change in Copenhagen this December.
It is my honor to introduce H.E Marie-Louise Overvad, Ambassador of the
Permanent Mission of Denmark to the UN Office at Geneva.
I thank the two Ambassadors.
I am now going to turn the meeting over to our moderator, Arthur Levin, Head
of the Telecommunications Standardization Policy Division at the ITU.