Message for Copenhagen: ICTs combat climate change

With the United Nations' Climate Change Conference placing green issues back at the heart of the news agenda, IDC published a report into the role ICT can play in curbing almost 5.8 billion tons of CO2 emissions by 2020. The analyst firm also released its first ICT Sustainability Index, in which G20 nations have been ranked on their ability to reduce their CO2 emissions through the focused use of ICT.

In the lead-up to the event, Hamadoun Toure, Secretary-General of the ITU, argued that: "put simply, ICT is the single most powerful tool humankind has at its disposal to avoid potential climate catastrophe". The ITU has been especially active in calling for standardised metrics to measure the benefits of ICT on emissions, in order to ensure that accurate like-for-like comparisons can take place.

Opportunities for ICT

The biggest potential savings were identified in the energy generation and distribution sector, with renewable energy management systems offering the greatest opportunity to reduce emissions. China was identified as having the most to gain, offering the possibility to save almost 200 million tons of CO2 using these technology over the coverage period. Moving on to transport, the leading opportunities for ICT is from supply chain logistics and private transport optimisation, with the US standing to be the big winner here: emissions could be reduced by more than 500 million tons by 2020.

ICT-based products and services for buildings can provide similar levels of savings as energy and transport solutions, with energy management systems and intelligent building design offering the biggest opportunity of all technologies -- accounting for nearly 12% of all G20 energy savings. Within the industrial sector, savings could be made through intelligent motor controllers, where China again presents the largest chance potential.

Japan tops Sustainability Index

Japan was ranked first in IDC's ICT Sustainability Index, coming some way ahead of other G20 nations -- the country was the only member identified as "top-tier". The US landed second place, followed by Brazil, France, Germany and the UK, which tied for third.

In the assessment of the G20, factors considered were: the current state of technology penetration and practices within the country; characteristics of the physical infrastructure and geographic features; and the relative difficulty each country will have in achieving its underlying potential.

In Japan, transport-related sources provide the largest potential to reduce CO2 emissions (30%), slightly ahead of the potential in G20 countries as a whole (29%). The next largest potential savings sources are power (27%) and buildings (25%) -- slightly lower numbers than for the G20 en masse. Japan also provides greater-than-average potential to cut emissions from industry.

Stewart Baines
Stewart Baines

I've been writing about technology for nearly 20 years, including editing industry magazines Connect and Communications International. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Anthony Plewes. My focus in Futurity Media is in emerging technologies, social media and future gazing. As a graduate of philosophy & science, I have studied futurology & foresight to the post-grad level.