MIT, Google and UN team up to tackle IT's carbon footprint

A group of IT experts, including staff from BT, Google and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are meeting in April to finalise work on a global method of measuring carbon emissions from IT.

A group of IT experts, including staff from BT, Google and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are meeting in April to finalise work on a global method of measuring carbon emissions from IT.

The IT arm of the United Nations - the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) - is bringing the group together because it says a globally accepted way of measuring the carbon emissions from IT projects would be a huge step forward in the fight against global warming.

The group is set to ratify the method after months of development and fine tuning.

"This will have a huge impact on the technology sector," said Malcolm Johnson, director of the ITU's Standardisation Bureau. The standard will be used to measure the impact of IT equipment, and IT projects in other sectors.

Technologists are also working on developing a standard method to measure the carbon emissions of any project or product, although the ITU is not involved in this.

Once a standard method is devised, it can be used to measure the emissions of anything - the manufacture of a PC, the building of a road, or even the manufacture of a teacup.

IT contributes about 2% of total global emissions. This is expected to rise to 8% by 2050 as technology use keeps growing, but IT could help to cut emissions by five times that.

The ITU is fighting to raise awareness of the crucial role technology will play in the fight against climate change. It is pressing for the technology sector to be mentioned in the text of December's Copenhagen climate change talks. IT was not mentioned at the Kyoto summit on climate change and it is currently not included in this year's summit.

The ITU says this is a big omission considering the huge role technology will play in measuring and reducing carbon emissions.

Read more on IT efficiency and sustainability

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