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Question 18/5

Question 18/5 – Methodologies for the assessment of environmental impact of ICT
(Continuation of Question 18/5)

Motivation

The importance of determining the impact of ICTs on climate change from the standardization viewpoint and within the competencies of the ITU-T is well identified. It has been 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 practical and common methodologies including a unified metric to describe and estimate objectively and transparently energy consumption of ICTs over their entire life cycles is also recognized.

Towards building sustainable and innovative societies relying on ICT, Question 18/5 aims to develop common methodologies that allow objective, transparent and practical assessments of ICT environmental impacts, at goods, networks and services level, at organizations level, at projects level, at cities level and at countries level.

The following Recommendations, in force at the time of approval of this Question, fall under its responsibility:

  • L.1400, L.1410 and L.1420

Question

During the next study period, it is expected that the already developed methodologies [L.methodology ICT Goods, Networks and Services (L.1410) and potentially also L.methodology ICT in organizations (L.1420)] will be extended to cover environmental impacts categories other than energy consumption and GHG emissions, such as water depletion or raw material depletion.

The methodologies related to the environmental impacts of “L.methodology ICT projects”, “L.methodology ICT in cities” and “L.methodologies ICT in countries” will be further developed/ finalized.

It is also planned that specific additions to “L.methodology ICT Goods, Networks and Services” (L.1410) and/or “L.methodology ICT projects” (L.1430) will be developed, relatively to the assessment of positive environmental impacts brought by ICT in other sectors of the economy, for instance for smart buildings, smart transports, including for instance the usage of real-time navigation systems, or smart grids.

It is expected that it will be studied how environmental assessments may be used in the frame of broader sustainable developments assessments including economic, environmental and social assessments.

Study items also include potential revisions of items launched during the previous Study Period, for instance relatively to the following topics :

  • 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?
  • 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?

Tasks

Tasks include, but are not limited to:

  • Further develop / finalize Recommendations L.methodology ICT projects, L.methodology ICT in cities and L.methodology ICT in countries;
  • Revise existing Recommendations L.methodology overview and general principles (L.1400), L. methodology ICT Goods, Networks and Services (L.1410) and L. methodology ICT in organizations (L.1420) according to the practical experience of the methodologies gained by ITU-T Members and taking into account developments in other fora and SDOs;
  • Develop, and gather in a handbook, specific additions to L. methodology ICT Goods, Networks and Services (L.1410) and/or L.methodology ICT projects (L.1430) on detailed methodologies to assess the positive effects of ICT in other sectors of the economy, for instance for smart buildings, smart transports, including for instance real time navigation systems, or smart grids;
  • Extend methodologies L.methodology ICT Goods, Networks and Services and, potentially L.methodology ICT in organizations, to cover other kind of environmental impacts such as water depletion or raw material depletion;
  • Study how environmental assessments may be used in the frame of broader sustainable developments assessments including economic, environmental and social assessments;
  • Contribute to the development of handbooks as necessary making reference to available databases related to environmental data;
  • Coordinate with other SGs and other bodies on a regular basis to collaborate effectively.

An up-to-date status of work under this Question is contained in the SG 5 work programme (use URL as shown in the table below). 

SG URL
5 http://www.itu.int/ITU-T/workprog/wp_search.aspx?q=18/5

Relationships

Recommendations:

  • None

Questions:

  • 13, 14 15, 17 and 19/5

Study Groups:

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

Standardization bodies, forums and consortia:

  • UNFCCC, ISO, IEC, ETSI, ATIS, ASTAP, CCSA, TTC, TTA, GHG Protocol (WBCSD / WRI), GSMA, Paia Project (MIT)
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