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World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS): High Level Panel in Climate Change and ICTs
 Geneva, Switzerland  20 May 2009 
Excellencies, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here today to open this High Level Event on Climate Change and ICTs and to have so many distinguished speakers present.

ITU is proud to have been the UN agency that organized the two phases of WSIS in 2003 and 2005. But while WSIS was meant to be forward –looking, and did address environmental concerns, not much attention was give to the issue of climate change.

On environmental issues WSIS focused on three areas:
  • using ICTs for environmental protection and the sustainable use of natural resources;
  • environmentally safe disposal and recycling of discarded hardware and components used in ICTs;
  • monitoring the impact of natural and man-made disasters.
Later today, the Action Line C7 will hold its meeting which will look specifically at these issues.

This morning however we will directly address climate change, which has become a major part of UN activities and Delivering as One.

ITU has had a longstanding concern about the impact of ICTs on the environment but it was only in the last two years that ITU became really active in this area.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in his visit to ITU in 2007 stated that “Climate change is the moral challenge of our generation” and he recognized ITU as “one of the most important stakeholders in terms of climate change"

When we initiated our activity on climate change I was often asked “What has ITU got to do with climate change”. I am pleased to say we do not often get asked that question now. I believe the relevance of ICTs to climate change is now well accepted.

Our activity on climate change was initiated by a Technology Watch Report on ICTs and Climate Change which we published at the end of 2007. This was enthusiastically received by our membership and we followed it with two very successful symposia in Kyoto and London last year.

One thing that these symposia highlighted was the variation in the estimates of the impact of ICTs on GHG emissions. The estimates of the contribution of ICTs to total GHG emissions varied from 2% to 3.5% including radiocommunications. Most significant was the estimates of how much the application of ICTs could reduce total GHG. These estimates ranged from 15% to over 40%.

The reason for this variation was that different methodologies were being used. Clearly such a wide variation of estimates led to some skepticism as to the impact of ICTs. ITU has consequently put a lot of effort into developing an internationally agreed common methodology and a Focus Group open to all interested parties was established last July to come up with a common methodology. I am pleased to say that this was successful and the Focus Group presented its final report a couple of weeks ago. A new study group on Environment and Climate Change (ITU-T Study Group 5) will now take this work forward starting next week and convert it into formal ITU-T recommendations.

This should not take long since the hard work has been done and our approval process in ITU is one of the fastest of any standards body.

Last year’s World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly adopted the first ever ITU Resolution on ICTs and Climate Change (Resolution 73) which emphasizes the importance of this work and calls on the ITU membership to work towards the reduction in emissions of GHGs arising from the use of ICTs that are necessary to meet the goals of the UNFCCC.

The recent World Telecommunication Policy Forum also adopted an Opinion which calls for the study by ITU of environmentally safe disposal and recycling of discarded ICT equipment and facilities. I am pleased to say this has been included in the terms of reference of the new study group..

This is a big issue. It is estimated that 100 million Europeans replace their mobile phone every year. PCs are replaced every few years. Not only does this create considerable waste, but it also means that perfectly good equipment is being dumped that could be reconditioned and shipped to less developed countries where people cannot afford to buy new.

WTPF also called for continuing support of the work of ITU-R in the use of the remote sensing (active and passive) for environmental observation, which can be used to forecast weather and warn the public in the case of natural disasters and to gather information on dynamic environmental processes and systems in accordance with relevant Resolutions adopted by Radiocommunication Assemblies and World Radiocommunication Conferences;

In order to achieve our own commitment to climate neutrality, ITU has introduced a number of initiatives:
  • Many of our meetings are now totally paperless and we make extensive use of remote working tools
  • For example our Focus Group on Climate Change had 28 conference calls and only three physical meetings
  • Our Recommendations are now freely available on-line
  • We have conducted an energy audit and are actively seeking to reduce our carbon footprint
  • We webcast most of our workshops and seminars
  • And we are organizing the first virtual Symposium on Climate Change next September with the Korean government
Each of the ITU’s three Sectors is active on climate change issues:

Our Radio Sector regulates the radiofrequency spectrum and develops standards to facilitate use of satellites and remote sensors for monitoring the climate, working closely with WMO and other UN partners

Our Development Sector is helping countries to adapt to the effects of climate change. Fostering use of emergency telecommunications for countries struck by extreme weather events

And our Telecommunication Standardisation Sector is developing more energy efficiency standards. Next Generation Networks for example will provide an estimated 40% power saving over the current PSTN.

ITU is also leading the Dynamic Coalition on Internet and Climate Change (DCICC) as part of Internet Governance Forum and will convene its second meeting and host a workshop at the IGF in Egypt in November. DCICC now has 22 members.

And of course, ITU being a UN agency is a key part of the overall UN effort on tackling climate change. As the lead UN agency for ICTs and organizer of WSIS, ITU is committed to realizing the vision of a Green Information Society.

We are making every effort therefore to convey the message to global leaders of the importance of recognizing the role of ICTs in any future agreements, such as the one expected to be agreed in December in Copenhagen.

Meeting these commitments includes the need for common reporting formats and methodologies to calculate national GHG emissions. In turn, agreed methodologies for calculations in the ICT sector can be based on our global standard.

While it was not formally part of the Kyoto process, now we have a common approach to calculating the impact of ICTs on climate change, it could be taken into account in future agreements.

And even it one takes the most conservative estimate of the reduction in total GHG emissions that can be achieve through the application of ICTs over the next 10 years, it equates to something like the current level of emissions of the United States or China.

Clearly then this is a significant contribution to the global effort to combat climate change.


The next major ITU Symposium on Climate Change will take place in Quito in July.

It is now my pleasure to introduce H.E. Ambassador Mauricio Montalvo, Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of Ecuador to the UN Office in Geneva.

Denmark is the host of the Conference of the Parties that will seek to agree on a new global agreement on climate change in Copenhagen this December.

It is my honor to introduce H.E Marie-Louise Overvad, Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of Denmark to the UN Office at Geneva.

I thank the two Ambassadors.

I am now going to turn the meeting over to our moderator, Arthur Levin, Head of the Telecommunications Standardization Policy Division at the ITU.


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Updated : 2009-05-20