The ITU is doing its bit to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by rubber-stamping the GSMA's universal 'one size fits all' micro-USB phone charger concept - making it easier to charge phones in the future wherever users are.
The decision clears the way for universal chargers to be produced that reduce the number (and diversity) of chargers manufactured, shipped and then subsequently discarded as new models become available in the future. The GSMA forecasts that this equates to a halving in standby energy consumption, elimination of 51,000 tons of redundant chargers, and a subsequent reduction of 13.6 million tons in global GHG emissions each year. The new chargers, which will carry a four-star or higher energy efficiency rating, will also be up to three times more efficient than unrated chargers, reducing the amount of power consumed.
Clearly, the potential effect of this cannot be underestimated as four billion mobile phones worldwide are eventually substituted for universal charger-compliant models and the energy savings kick in. Personally, I think this is a noble cause but that it's going to take some years before results are achieved; the economic climate right now is limiting the tendency of consumers in developed markets to upgrade their handset. Those in undeveloped markets with limited incomes may be more likely to stick with their basic handset rather than incur upgrade costs. Also, the initiative is voluntary and so although there are a number of operators that have signed up to the GSMA's specification, it's going to be at least 2012 before we have handsets in any volume that are micro-USB-enabled, and have charger manufacturers that decide to shelve their vested interest in proprietary charger interfaces and get with the program.
In the bigger picture, the ITU is driving to have the global ICT industry recognized as a major contributor to positive climate change in the draft Copenhagen Agreement in December. The European Commission is taking an open stance by allowing individuals, businesses and special-interest parties to contribute to the debate. We all know that the global ICT industry is a major consumer of power and is not always as efficient as it could be. For example, performing two Google searches uses about the same amount of power as boiling water for a cup of tea, and the power used in telecom network switches varies enormously. With such a diverse number of areas where telecoms vendors, service providers, software developers and consumers could mitigate their power usage and reduce CO2 emissions, it will take the intervention of the ITU and GSMA to coordinate the delivery of whatever is agreed in Copenhagen.
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.