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On the road to Copenhagen

Zero hour for action on climate change

It is payback time for humanity. We must now face the consequences of a huge environmental footprint left in the trail of enormous prosperity. Our planet’s vital organs have been infected. The Earth has to be brought back to health. This is no small matter.

The timeliness and scale of our actions to reverse this process of climate change will decide our fate and that of future generations. Copenhagen is not just another environmental conference. It is about global security, peace and a sustainable future.

The Climate Change Task Force that I am heading, of which ITU is one of the supporting members, seeks to ensure that the transformation to a low-carbon future is profound, timely, broad-based and equitable.

World leaders vastly under-estimate the threat of climate change and the urgency of taking dramatic action that calls for much more severe cuts in emissions than what governments are now proposing. Addressing climate change will require a radical shift in our values and lifestyles. Existing communication technologies can play a significant role in reducing emissions today, but it is up to us to make the right choices.

Mikhail Gorbachev
Former President of the Soviet Union

ICT will play a crucial role in any solution

Information and communication technologies (ICT) use energy and so contribute to greenhouse-gas emissions. Fortunately, the ICT industry is actively addressing this issue. Next-generation networks, for example, promise to reduce electricity consumption by as much as 40 per cent, while digital broadcasting will reduce the power used by transmitters by a factor of almost ten.

But it is in helping other industries to cut their greenhouse-gas emissions that ICT truly shine. New developments in this area include smart power grids, energy-efficient data centres, teleworking, intelligent transport, and smart buildings. A study by the Global e-Sustainability Initiative estimated that the effective use of ICT could reduce total global emissions by 15 per cent, while delivering energy savings to businesses amounting to more than EUR 500 billion.

For the radical change that is necessary, ICT are the only tools powerful enough to allow us to make a difference. It is of great importance that this fundamental fact is recognized by the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. And through providing incentives for the ICT industry to improve its performance and invest in developing countries, we will help to narrow the digital divide while fighting climate change — a win-win scenario.

Hamadoun I. Touré
ITU Secretary-General


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