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UNFCCC Climate Change Talks
 Barcelona, Spain  5 November 2009 
Good afternoon.

My name is Malcolm Johnson, I am an elected official in the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the lead UN agency for information and communication technologies (ICT).

Thank you all for coming.

I’m guessing that many of you may not be familiar with the ITU so please allow me to say a few words about ITU.

ITU is the lead UN agency for ICTs.

  • coordinates the shared global use of the radio spectrum,
  • promotes international cooperation on use of satellite orbits,
  • assists developing countries to improve their ICT infrastructure
  • assigns numbers for use in telecommunication networks
  • develops global ICT standards that foster seamless interconnection and interoperability of a vast range of ICT systems and addresses the challenges of our times, such as cybersecurity and mitigating climate change.
Many predict that by 2050 global greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced by some 80%, so we can no longer talk in terms of incremental reductions of 5-10%. Studies have shown that this is achievable through the use of ICTs.

There is also a growing understanding that there is only one way that this can be achieved: by shifting from a high carbon physical infrastructure to a low carbon virtual infrastructure based on the evolving information society and smart technology – what we call information and communication technologies (ICTs).

ICTs provide for virtual meetings, smart grids, e-governance, e-health, intelligent transport systems, dematerialization (for example using electronic files instead of paper, downloading videos instead of buying DVDs etc).

If the industrial revolution had the unfortunate consequence of creating environmental damage, ITU believes the same drive towards technological innovation through ICTs can reduce carbon footprint across all industry sectors, and fight the impact of climate change through accurate monitoring and rapid disaster response.

Successful strategies will require truly radical change, rather than incremental change to ‘business-as-usual’ approaches.

ICTs are, we believe, the only tool powerful enough to serve as the ‘circuit-breaker’ to our current climate-hostile strategies, and to affect the true paradigm shift needed to make a difference.

In terms of concrete action ITU has produced a methodology that will allow ICT companies to report their carbon footprints, but will also enable the reporting of the positive impact of ICTs in other sectors.

Every one of our new standards is now drafted with power saving in mind. For example the new broadband standard VDSL 2 has various power modes that will significantly reduce power use. We are considering to introduce green labeling for ICT products. Post COP15 consumers will be better educated to look for brands which have a green image.

ITU is also active in the areas of monitoring and capacity building.

We recently standardized a one-charger fits all solutions for mobile phones. The standard will deliver an estimated 50 per cent reduction in standby energy consumption, eliminate as much as 82,000 tonnes of redundant chargers and cut GHG emissions by 13.6 million tonnes annually.

ITU does all of this through its members – over 700 members of the world’s technology companies, and 191 governments – as well as collaboration with many other organizations.

Interoperability and standardization are vitally important.

New collaborative mechanisms are needed between industry sectors that have traditionally been separate communities.

ITU is ready and willing to contribute to this effort.

We are here in Barcelona to push this message… that ICTs are a major part of the solution to climate change, and should be at the centre of these climate change discussions.

We strongly believe that ICTs can be of benefit in all areas… monitoring, mitigation, adaptation, capacity building and financing. Unfortunately today ICTs are not mentioned anywhere in the text.

We call upon all governments, as this is a party-driven process, to include the ICT/telecommunications Sector under sectoral approaches.

In fact just last week in Geneva, ITU’s governing Council approved a Resolution on ICTs and climate change that invites administrations to develop common proposals related to the role of ICTs in mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change for incorporation in a new UN agreement.

I look forward to hearing your questions.

Thank you


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Updated : 2009-11-11