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ITU climate conference highlights need to harness new technologies

Bridging the digital divide will be critical in the fight to combat climate change

Geneva, 27 July, 2009 — Achieving climate justice is in the interest of all countries and citizens. This was a conclusion of the recent ITU Symposium on ICTs and Climate Change, Quito, Ecuador, 8-10 July 2009, the first ITU Symposium on the topic in a developing country and the first to focus on the concerns of the Americas.

Participants agreed that global efforts to combat climate change should not impede the economic and social growth of developing countries, and that bridging the digital divide and bringing the benefits of ICTs to all citizens is fundamental to tackling climate change.

They also recognized that while the countries of Latin American and the Caribbean are minor contributors to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, they are often victims of the extreme weather events and other negative impacts of climate change.

The symposium brought together key specialists in the field, including top decision-makers, engineers, hardware and software developers, government officials and regulators. Topics covered included climate-friendly ICT policy frameworks, strategies for reducing the carbon footprint of the ICT sector and other industrial sectors, high-tech climate monitoring tools, the use of ICTs in emergency response, and financial implications for the Americas region.

Hosted by Centro Internacional de Investigación Científica en Telecomunicaciones, Tecnologías de la Información y las Comunicaciones (CITIC), the symposium was attended by 60 virtual and 450 physical attendees from 20 countries, and was chaired by Ing. Jorge Glas Espinel, representing the President of the Republic of Ecuador, Economist Rafael Correa.

Malcolm Johnson, Director, Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, ITU: "This event emphasized the importance of bridging the digital divide if developing countries are to mitigate and adapt to climate change. It also again highlighted the significant contribution of ICTs in tackling climate change, and recognized the need for ICTs to be included in any future global agreements, such as the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Copenhagen from 7-18 December 2009."

The Conclusions of the Symposium emphasized the need to:

  • promote better access to ICTs, particularly affordable broadband networks
  • drive development of more energy-efficient ‘green’ networks and equipment
  • foster the recycling of ICT products and reduce the use of toxic materials in their manufacture
  • develop agreed global standards on green ICT, including common methodologies to accurately measure the impact of ICTs on climate change
  • prioritize the use of renewable energy sources
  • increase cooperation between developed countries and those countries most at risk, to enable the latter to adapt to climate change.
  • It is estimated that ICTs contribute around 2 - 2.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions — a figure that is likely to grow as technology becomes more widely available. But at the same time, ICTs can significantly help reduce climate change across all economic sectors by promoting the development of more energy efficient devices, networks and processes, and reducing transport needs through online collaboration and more efficient distribution systems.

    The symposium presentations, a background paper, a summary, and the Conclusions can be found here.

    ITU’s activities on climate change can be found at

    For further information, please contact:

    Sarah Parkes
    Media Relations

    Tel: +41 22 730 6135
    Toby Johnson
    Communications Officer,
    ITU Telecommunication Standardization Bureau
    Tel: +41 22 730 5877
    Mobile: +41 79 249 4868

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    Updated : 2009-07-27