Back in 2009 the European Commission published a recommendation on ICT which promoted the adoption of ICT and ICT-enabled technologies to deliver emissions reductions. In return, the sector agreed to a number of undertakings, one of which was the development of a common framework to measure the carbon impact of ICT processes. Over the last few years a number of standards bodies and industry consortia have been developing methodologies to evaluate the carbon impact of ICT products and services, and in most cases the work is nearing completion. In 2012 industry tested the compatibility and workability of these methodologies for ICT products, networks and services.

Every 1.5 years ICT is doubling its energy efficiency – a speed of improvement unmatched by any other industry. As the sector is growing in a disruptive and pervasive manner, net reductions in power demand may be elusive despite the fact that energy efficiency and carbon productivity are improving faster than any other sector. ICT applications can certainly enable energy and GHG reductions in other sectors. The Smart 2020 report estimated reduction of 15% by 2020. Can this “off-set ICT emissions”? This is not easy to calculate. The response is positive for specific applications where a cost/benefit analysis is appropriate, e.g. moving specific applications to the cloud. For industry as a whole, enabling effects are indirect, and some applications ‘enable’ an increase in emission. For instance ICT could help to make the offer of an airline company cheaper, with the result that we fly more. But it can also enable car sharing, which could make a major contribution of CO2 reduction. Therefore it is important to ensure that the sector’s carbon impact is evaluated in the light of these effects.

The ubiquity and disruptiveness of the technology pose challenges but also possibilities for energy efficiency gains that not only needs to be used but also better communicated. In the end, isn’t the key objective to define a practical way forward on how to best support the achievement of the 2020 goals and the transition to a low-carbon economy?

This blog-post was penned by Sylvie Feindt, Director Environmental Policy, DIGITALEUROPE


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