The International Telecommunications Union is developing a standard way to assess the impact of information and communications technology on the environment, with the aim of cutting CO2 emissions in the manufacture and use of ICT.
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ITU secretary general Hamadoun Touré told Computer Weekly that he hopes the standard, which could be published this year, would become a global benchmark.
He said that the ICT sector produces between 2.5% and 5% of global CO2 emissions. This was not the key issue, he said. "Far more important is the role ICT can play in reducing emissions through technologies such as telepresence and remote working in saving emissions from transport," he said.
The ICT industry was aware of the contribution it could play but it was hard to get concerted action because of different measuring schemes, he said.
The ITU set up a study group under the chairmanship of Keith Dickerson, BT Design's head of standards, in May 2009 to assess the impact of ICTs on climate change. One of its primary aims is to develop a standard method for assessing the environmental impact of ICT.
Dickerson said the working party also aims to develop standards for power saving in ICT equipment, higher voltage and more efficient power supplies, and recycling.
He said BT would use these standards to drive its suppliers to reduce their power consumption and hence CO2 emissions as a way of meeting its own targets. The first suppliers likely to be affected are those supplying equipment for BT's 21st century network.
However, Touré said first concrete results were likely to be an agreement between mobile phone suppliers to develop a standard charger for all handsets.
Touré said the entire ICT manufacturing industry, from chip makers to system integrators was involved or expressed interest in the project.
Dickerson said he was working with representatives from other ICT companies including France Telecom, Alcatel-Lucent and Fujitsu.
The ITU is working towards the development of standards in the following areas to reduce the impact of information and communications technologies on climate change:
WG Name Chairman
17/5 Coordination and Planning of ICT&CC related standardisation Paolo Gemma,Franz Zichy
18/5 Methodology of environmental impact assessment of ICT Jean-Manuel Canet, Takafumi Hashitani
19/5 Power feeding systems Kaoru Asakura, Didier Marquet
20/5 Data Collection for Energy Efficiency for ICTs over the lifecycle Gilbert Buty. Dave Faulkner
21/5 Environmental protection and recycling of ICT equipment/facilities Didier Marquet, Júlio Cesar Fonseca;
Xia Zhang, Paulo Curado