Speech from Mr Houlin Zhao, ITU Deputy Secretary-General,
on behalf of Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, ITU Secretary-General
WMO – World Climate Conference – WCC-3
Geneva, Switzerland, 31 August 2009

Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Climate change is arguably the greatest challenge ever faced by the human species.

And at ITU we are taking climate change very seriously indeed – and continuously looking at ways in which we can contribute towards better climate monitoring and use the positive benefits of ICTs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate monitoring, of course, is what WCC-3 is all about – the ability to use better climate information for a better future.

And I am proud to note ITU’s important contribution in this respect.

For many years we have had an excellent collaboration and partnership with WMO.

WMO focuses on meeting the needs for environmental information.

ITU, for its part, ensures the necessary frequencies are available to allow the interference-free operation of radio-based applications and radiocommunication systems – both terrestrial and space – which are used for climate monitoring and prediction, weather forecasting and disaster early warning and detection.

The use of radio technologies and systems for environmental and climate monitoring has been a longstanding concern at the ITU, dating back to the International Radio Conference of Atlantic City, 1947 – where ITU Member States included the Meteorological Aids Service (MetAids) in the Radio Regulations, and allocated the necessary radio-frequency spectrum for MetAids applications.

Successive ITU World Radiocommunication Conferences have taken into account WMO’s need to ensure the availability and protection of radio-frequency bands for observation tools such as radiosondes, weather and wind profiler radars, and space-borne infrared and microwave sounders.

In recognition of the vital importance of environmental monitoring, WRC-07 allocated additional spectrum for systems that are used for monitoring climate change.

And in 2008, the ITU Radiocommunication Study Groups initiated additional studies and developed Recommendations on the further development of remote-sensing applications – which should improve the precision of climate monitoring and the prediction of climate change.

As the most recent samples of close ITU/WMO cooperation I may mention the ITU/WMO Handbook "Use of Radio Spectrum for Meteorology: Weather, Water and Climate ate Monitoring and Prediction" and the First ITU/WMO seminar with the same title on 16-18 September.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The science of environmental and climate monitoring has benefited enormously from the parallel advances which have been made in ICTs – and today ICTs play an absolutely critical role in all global monitoring activities.

Examples range from the radio-based remote sensors which relay data to control centres from radiosondes, aircraft and satellites, to the automatic weather stations which are now starting to close the ground-level weather observation gap in Africa as part of the ‘Weather Info for All’ initiative which was launched in June by the Global Humanitarian Forum here in Geneva.

ICT systems and networks also play a vital role in processing and delivering the huge volumes of data necessary for climate prediction.

And ITU’s work – particularly in the implementation of digital broadcasting and the development of next generation networks – is itself directly helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Digital broadcasting, for example, results in a massive – almost ten-fold – reduction in the power consumption of broadcasting transmitters. And the actual number of transmitters can also be reduced by transmitting several programmes in one frequency channel.

Next generation networks, for their part, could reduce energy requirements by up to 40 per cent, compared with today’s networks, through a combination of fewer switching centres, more modern equipment with multiple power modes, reduced requirements for air-conditioning, support for advance services, and more efficient routing of traffic.

Distinguished colleagues,

I am confident that the work we do here this week will not just have a positive influence on the Copenhagen Climate Conference in December, but will, in the broader sense, increase awareness of the need for – and the benefits of – ICTs as a key enabler for more accurate and more useful environmental and climate monitoring.

Long before Copenhagen, however, we are staging ITU Telecom World 2009 here in Geneva at the beginning of October. So let me close, therefore, with an open invitation to you all to attend this important event – which will feature ‘Green ICT and Climate Change’ as one of the main thematic topics of the forum debates.

Thank you.