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Question 18/5 – Methodology of environmental impact assessment of ICT
(New Question)


SG5 is responsible for studying ICT environmental aspects on electromagnetic phenomena and climate change. In addition, SG5 has been appointed as a lead Study Group to advance the work on ICT and climate change.

Through many discussions in the Focus Group on ICT and Climate Change (hereafter “FG ICT&CC”), the importance of determining the impact of ICTs on climate change from the standardization viewpoint and within the competencies of the ITU-T was identified. It was also identified that this impact consists of ICT direct energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over the entire life cycles (direct impact) of the ICTs and the impact through the use of ICTs in other relevant sectors (indirect impact) that under certain conditions can result in mitigation of primary energy, GHG emissions, and use of materials such as rare metals.

The necessity of developing concrete and common methodologies including a unified metric to describe and estimate objectively and transparently present and future user energy consumption of ICTs over their entire life cycles was also recognized. A methodology for assessing the environmental impact of ICTs should be based upon the life cycle assessment (LCA), which was standardized in the ISO 14040 series, and should be used to evaluate the eco-efficiency of individuals, businesses, and ICT-related societies.

Towards constructing sustainable societies on the environment by utilizing ICT, creating common methodologies for ICT environmental both impacts assessment with objective, transparency and practical use is the key motivator for this Question. For this motivation, it is necessary to discuss above aspects not from political viewpoints but from technological viewpoints within this Question.

This method covers also the methods to verify by measurement the assessment of direct ICT impact and of potential indirect mitigation impact.


Study items to be considered include, but are not limited to:

  • What are the general principles to be used to establish the methodology to assess impact, which consists of the impact of ICT emissions over their entire life cycles and the impact of the mitigation achieved through the use of ICTs in other relevant sectors?
  • How can the specific characteristics of the direct and indirect impacts of ICT (e.g., changes in environmental loads by the introduction of ICT services) be determined? This aspect includes the following.
    • What methodologies are needed to enable GHG reduction by choice of alternative technologies to deliver telecommunication services (‘own’ emission reduction)?
    • What methodologies are needed to enable comparisons to be made concerning alternative services (e.g., travel substitution)?
    • What methodologies are needed to enable comparisons to be made concerning efficiency improvement (e.g. building energy management)?
    • What methodologies are needed to compare alternative lifecycle choices? The calculations need to consider the entire lifecycle, extraction, production, transport, usage phase and end-of-life.
  • What are the formulas to calculate the environmental impacts of each activity? What are the criteria for calculating changes to the environmental impact through using ICT services/solutions?
  • What are the considerations for the functional unit selection and the system boundary selection?
  • What are the allocation procedures for assessing ICT environmental impact based on LCA?
  • How to collect reliable data, in particular data impacting very significantly the results e.g., the electrical and fossil energy to build a silicone device, the silicone chip being the foundation of all ICT devices? How to take into account the evolution of data over time?
  • What are the common environmental loads and how to express the environment load in absolute, relative value and intensity per unit? What can be used as background data for objectively and transparently assessing the environmental impact of ICT? What are the regional dependencies that might be necessary to consider in determining the environmental load intensity per unit?
  • How to evaluate the methodology (measurement, statistic sampling, case studies, etc.) including different regional or national aspects?
  • How to use methodology to assess the need for Carbon labeling programme and its scope


Tasks include, but are not limited to:

  • Develop Recommendations on methodology for environmental impact assessment of ICTs considering general principles, criteria for evaluating ICT impact, system boundaries, functional units, and Environmental load intensity
  • Develop Recommendations on collecting and calculating reliable rough data to inject in the assessment model (e.g. J per cm² or g of silicone wafer used in constructing in electronic chip)
  • Develop Handbooks as necessary making reference to available databases related to common environmental load intensities
  • Coordinate with other SGs and other bodies on a regular basis to collaborate effectively



  • 17, 19, 20 and 21/5

Study Groups:

  • ITU-T SGs 9, 13, 15 and 16
  • SGs in ITU-D
  • SGs in ITU-R

Standardization bodies, forums and consortia:

  • IEC
  • ISO
  • Other relevant standardization bodies, fora, consortia and other relevant organizations


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Updated : 2009-06-12