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ICT industry offered common approach to reporting greenhouse gas emissions

Unified methodologies to facilitate meaningful carbon footprint calculations

Geneva, 27 March 2009 — Standardized methodologies for calculating the impact of information and communication technologies (ICT) in terms of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have been proposed by an ITU Focus Group meeting in Hiroshima, Japan.

The ITU-T Focus Group on ICTs and Climate Change, a global group comprising of some of the world’s leading ICT players, has developed a method for calculating two elements:

1- Energy usage and carbon impact arising from ICT lifecycles

2- Decrease in GHG emissions that can be achieved with ICTs, such as substituting ICT services and devices for intensive fossil-fuelled activities for travel and transport and by replacing atoms with bits (buying an MP3 file instead of a CD), also known as "dematerialization".

The meeting agreed on a set of four ‘deliverables’ that also give guidance on terms and definitions, including units of measurement to be used. The deliverables draw on best practices from many organizations around the world and will be published as the proceedings of the Focus Group. The next step will be to formally issue the Focus Group outcomes as ITU-T Recommendations, or standards.

"This work has an important bearing on current and future global agreements under which countries undertake commitments to reduce their overall GHG emissions," said Malcolm Johnson, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau. "Common approaches to calculating the impact of ICTs are vital to ensure coherent and effective solutions."

Clearly, ICTs have the potential to drastically reduce GHGs. A contribution to the Focus Group meeting showed that direct e-mail has the effect of a 98.5 per cent carbon dioxide emission reduction compared with paper. The group also noted a trend towards ‘always-on’ devices that are a drain on power supplies. Recommended steps toward more efficient energy use of ICT devices are part of the output of the group.

"Even conservative estimates show a significant contribution to addressing climate change can be made through the application of ICTs," said Johnson. "But, we cannot be content to sit and tell one another that ICTs can mitigate climate change. We must demonstrate our case with hard facts and figures. This methodology will give added credibility and coherence to the estimates of the positive impact of ICT. A common methodology will help establish the business case to go green and can ultimately be beneficial to informed consumer choices and climate-friendly business procurement."

Dave Faulkner, BT and Chairman of the Focus Group said, "The Focus Group has highlighted ways to minimize the ICT sector's carbon footprint. But, more importantly, the group has highlighted key ways to reduce GHG emissions in other sectors by the clever use of telecommunication and ICTs. We expect these measures will be taken up by telecommunications operators and vendors around the world."

Jason Marcheck, a Principal Analyst with Current Analysis: "Without a standardized methodology for measuring the carbon footprint of ICTs it is impossible to fully comprehend data provided by well-meaning companies. This initiative helps to provide a framework that companies can follow to give reliable data that can be compared on an international scale. It shows the importance that the ICT industry attaches to this topic, and represents a necessary step forward in standardizing the way that the industry approaches environmental sustainability."

Takashi Hanazawa, Senior Vice President, NTT: "The development and implementation of a standardized methodology is something that all industry players have been waiting for. As an ITU member, NTT has supported this work from the beginning. Today’s announcement sends a strong message, underlining this industry’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint. We applaud ITU’s efforts and join with ITU management in sending a message of environmental consciousness and belief in sustainable growth for the future."

Makoto Totsuka, Director-General for ICT Strategic Policy Planning, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Japan: "Prior to the Focus Group, we have not had an international forum for discussing common measures to calculate the positive and negative aspect of ICTs. We were honoured to host the final meeting of the Focus Group and would like to thank all delegates for their efforts. We will continue to contribute to ITU activity on ICT and Climate Change and environmental issues."

Laura Ipsen, Senior Vice President of Cisco Global Policy and Government Affairs and co-chair of the Cisco EcoBoard: "Accurate, standardized measurement is the first step towards effective reduction of the ICT carbon footprint. The ITU-T Focus Group deliverables provide a valuable foundation for further ICT industry global collaboration in helping to address the world’s environmental challenges. Cisco is committed to continuing its efforts in ITU and with customers globally for energy efficiency in an inclusive and sustainable information society."

As part of its ongoing work on ICTs and climate change, ITU is organizing the third Symposium on ICTs and Climate Change in Quito, Ecuador, 8− 10 July 2009, hosted by Centro Internacional de Investigación Científica en Telecomunicaciones, Tecnologías de la Información y las Comunicaciones (CITIC), Ecuador.

For further information, please see www.itu.int/themes/climate/ or contact:

Sanjay Acharya

Chief, Media Relations and Public Information

ITU

Tel: +41 22 730 6135

Mobile: +41 79 249 4861

E-mail: pressinfoitu.int

Toby Johnson

Communications Officer

ITU

Tel: +41 22 730 5877

Mobile: +41 79 249 4868

E-mail: toby.johnsonitu.int

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