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ICTs are part of the solution: ITU and the UN: delivering as One in Climate Change

  ITU and climate change

 Message to COP16 delegates from ITU Secretary-General  

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ICTs are part of the solution to combat climate change

Message from ITU Secretary-General to the
2010 Climate Change Conference

29 November 2010

As the UN ncy for information and communications technologies (ICTs), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is working to connect the world. This connectivity will give us the ability to address some of the key challenges faced by our society – including climate change.

As global leaders, environmental experts and representatives from international organizations, NGOs and other sectors gather in the city of Cancun, Mexico, to establish the basis for a future agreement that will enable the full, effective and sustained implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) through long-term cooperative action we call on them to recognize the phenomenal power of ICTs in addressing climate change.

Clearly ICTs are a contributor to  Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. Around 2.5% of global emissions by some estimates. So we need to work with industry to keep this impact low. ITU is very engaged in this activity working, for example, on a common methodology to measure the ICT sector’s carbon footprint. We are also identifying innovative ways to reduce the emissions from the sector by building more energy efficient networks, devices and services and by implementing public policies that will promote greener technologies.

The most startling fact about ICTs and climate change is their role in controlling overall emissions. Studies have shown that the application of ICTs can reduce the carbon footprint across all sectors by a factor of five. For example, broadband networks allow individuals to work more from home and companies to reduce air travel. ICTs allow “atoms” to be substituted by “bits” (i.e., streaming a movie online, rather than buying a DVD). ICTs can also help manage smart buildings that power themselves and then feed energy back into the electricity grid, a smart grid providing much more energy efficient distribution. Intelligent transport systems (ITS) can clear our cities of debilitating pollutants and traffic jams. ICTs can also enable better and cleaner water distribution. There is a very long list of examples.

In terms of monitoring climate change, ICTs clearly have a key role. Satellite technologies and radio-based remote sensors, are the main tools for environmental observation and climate monitoring. Disaster prediction, detection and early warning systems are essential for governments to adjust and respond to the effects of climate change.

ICTs are a cross-cutting technology that can drive the deep transformation needed in the global effort to combat climate change and advance the implementation of the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol. This is all about opportunity. Forward-thinking leaders already recognize the role of ICTs. The challenge today is to move forward and look to ICTs as a key enabler of a new model of social and economic development.

The time is right to recognize the power of ICTs in the outcomes of the climate change negotiations. Recognition at this level will highlight ICTs as an enabler for projects in developing countries and increase the likelihood of funding; it will invite the ICT sector to be more active and make the world more aware of the power of green ICT and it will apply pressure on policy makers to apply smart technologies for greening our towns and cities.

For these reasons I invite COP16 delegates to look to the ICT sector, and take maximum advantage of the power of ICTs as part of the solution to combat climate change.

By working together we can advance the implementation of new solutions for a better future.

Thank you.

Hamadoun Toure
ITU Secretary-General


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