Committed to connecting the world


Speech by ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré

Mobile World Congress:
Transformative Solutions for Climate Change,
The Need for Effective ICT Policy Development

16 February 2011, Barcelona, Spain

Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

As co-vice-chair of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, it is a great pleasure to be here this afternoon for this first meeting of the Commission’s Broadband and Climate Change working group.

I would very much like to thank the CEO of Ericsson, Hans Vestberg, for proposing this working group, and of course for chairing it.

These Broadband Commission Working Groups offer a valuable opportunity to focus on specific issues and concrete outputs within the bigger broadband theme.

Each of the working groups – there are around half a dozen being set up this year to focus on different issues – will be presenting an outline of its work to the third meeting of the Broadband Commission in Paris in June. They will then each present their outcomes to the rest of the Commission at the Broadband Summit in Geneva in October.

The timing of the launch of this particular work group is especially appropriate, in the wake of COP 16 in Cancún, which heralded two significant shifts in the United Nations’ approach to climate change.

Firstly, there is a shift underway from advocating a top-down approach, with internationally-set targets, to embracing more bottom-up approach, where countries adopt their own climate change plans within a framework of international monitoring, reporting and verification.

And secondly, the emphasis has moved away from addressing climate change as a standalone issue, to one that is clearly interlinked with the concept of sustainable development.

It is no coincidence that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has put sustainability right at the top of the agenda for the United Nations in 2011.

One problem we face is that while lip service is paid across the planet to the concept of sustainability, there is still surprisingly little action being taken. The main reason, I believe, is that the economic case for sustainability has not in fact been made convincingly – and here, the ICT sector has a powerful potential role to play.

To an audience such as this, I hardly need to argue the benefits of ICTs in terms of addressing climate change issues. But we must all act as ICT ambassadors, and clearly demonstrate to the wider world why ICTs will very much be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

First, of course, comes the role of ICTs themselves in helping to reduce emissions, as green ICT soon becomes a reality rather than just a useful catchphrase.

I am confident that as more and more countries adopt national broadband plans – already there are more than eighty – there will be a tremendous opportunity to reduce emissions across various different sectors of the economy.

As they accelerate the take-up of transformative low-carbon ICT solutions, we will see whole sectors such as transportation, energy, healthcare, government services and communications become cleaner, more efficient and more environmentally-friendly.

Second, there is the tremendous role that ICTs play in monitoring, reporting and verification – both of the ICT sector itself and of course by using the power of ICTs to monitor, record and analyze data.

And third, ICTs will play an increasingly important role in adapting to the effects of climate change – from providing vital life-saving warnings ahead of natural disasters and catastrophes, to providing vital communications links once they have occurred.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As I am sure you are aware, ITU is doing very important work in this regard, most notably within our Telecommunication Standardization Sector.

ITU-T’s Environment and Climate Change Study Group – SG-5 – is working on a set of methodologies for assessing the environmental impact of ICT. This includes a methodology which ICT companies could use to measure their carbon footprint, as well as to estimate the considerable savings in global greenhouse gas emissions and energy that can be achieved in other sectors through the use of ICTs.

A single global methodology will give increased credibility to the various claims currently being made about the benefits of ICTs in addressing climate change and energy issues.

SG-5 met in November and December last year with record levels of attendance and contributions, including many new countries participating for the first time, and I am very pleased with the group’s growing reputation and sense of dedication.

This coordinated approach is absolutely essential and helps us to avoid unnecessary duplication of efforts within the ICT sector, and I would like to take this opportunity to invite your active contributions to the work of this group.

SG-5, which adopted the universal mobile phone charger in 2010, is also working on ‘Setting up a low cost sustainable telecommunication infrastructure for rural communications in developing countries’ and ‘Using ICTs to enable countries to adapt to climate change’. It is also discussing a ‘Universal Battery solution’ to follow-up on the universal charger.

Before I close, I would like to take this opportunity to let you know that we have just reached an agreement with Telecom Italia to hold the first ‘ITU Green Standards Week’ in Rome, from 5 to 9 September.

I would also like to remind you that we will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of ITU Telecom in Geneva in October.

The event – taking place from 24 to 27 October – will bring together world leaders at the highest level along with top executives from many of the world’s most powerful players in the ICT sector.

It will also feature the Broadband Summit I mentioned earlier, to which this working group on climate change will report.

It will therefore be a great occasion on which to pursue the discussions and debates which are taking place here in Barcelona, and I look forward very much to seeing you there.


Thank you.