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ITU Symposium on ICTs and the Environment & Climate Change
Accra, Ghana 4 July 2011
Is ITU participating in the UNFCCC Conference of Parties and what ITU can do to mobilize the ICT community?

It is now generally recognized that climate change is a major threat to sustainable growth and development. No one can escape their responsibility to help meet this challenge, and it was recognized four years ago that ITU has a major role to play.

At Durban we have a real and reachable opportunity to help save the planet through astute deployment of modern information and communication technologies (ICTs). Studies clearly show that more effective use of ICTs can deliver tremendous CO2 savings.

ITU, as the UN agency responsible for ICTs, and the global focal point for the ICT sector is participating in the UNFCCC process and is raising awareness of the positive role that ICTs can play in combating climate change.

I am confident that as more and more countries adopt international ICT standards and include ICT as part of their environment plans – there will be a tremendous opportunities in three major areas:

Firstly, as countries accelerate the take-up of innovative low-carbon solutions, we will see whole sectors such as transportation, energy, buildings, and waste disposal become cleaner, more efficient and more environmentally-friendly.

Second, there is the tremendous role that ICTs play in monitoring, reporting and verification – both of the ICT sector itself and of course by using the power of ICTs to monitor, record and analyze data.

And third, ICTs will play an increasingly important role in adapting to the effects of climate change – from providing vital life-saving warnings ahead of natural disasters and catastrophes, to providing vital communications links once they have occurred.

In January 2011, I had the pleasure to welcome in my office a delegation from Ghana, led by the Honourable Minister of Communications together with the Environmental Protection Agency of Ghana.

ITU was asked to coordinate a project on “ICT and Climate Change in Ghana”. This project builds on two pillars:

The first pillar which is led by EPA and sponsored by Vodafone Ghana will look at “How telecommunications in Ghana can reduce their own GHG emissions” and will pilot for the first time the ITU methodology on “Environmental Assessment for the ICT Sector”.

The second pillar which is led by the Ministry of Communications and sponsored by Research in Motion (BlackBerry) will look at “How Information and Communications Technologies Can Help Countries To Adapt To The Effects Of Climate Change: The Case Of Ghana”.

These are the first projects on “ICTs and Climate Change” to be carried out in accordance with the UNFCCC guidelines and will be presented at COP-17.

In addition, ITU has recently been asked by GeSI to lead an ICT coalition that will bring together key players to prepare a message to COP-17 on the great potential that ICTs can play in addressing environmental issues and in particular in combating climate change. We ask for your support for this initiative.

To an audience such as this, I hardly need to argue the benefits of ICTs in terms of addressing climate change issues.

But it is not enough….

We must all act as ICT ambassadors, and clearly demonstrate to the wider world why ICTs are not part of the problem but very much part of the solution.

Specific mention of the ICT sector, along with the adoption of an agreed methodology for measuring the carbon footprint of ICT equipment, as being worked out in ITU, and its inclusion in National Adaptation and Mitigation Plans, will 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.

It is not an easy task since the negotiators are all from environment and foreign affairs ministries and, unlike our colleagues from the Ghana Environment Ministry, many do not even knowing what ICTs stands for. So I encourage you all to contact your national representatives responsible for negotiations at COP-17 in order to explain to them the benefits of recognizing the role of telecommunications/ICTs in mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change. ITU will be present at COP-17 and we will as I said be leading an ICT coalition to lobby delegates and to present to them our arguments in presentations and demonstrations. I invite you all to join us in this effort.


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Updated : 2011-07-08