Thursday, 14 March 2013

How can ICT offset its own carbon footprint and help lower emissions on a global scale

The rising demand of information and communication technology (ICT), not only in developed countries but also increasingly in emerging and developing countries, generates a rapidly growing carbon footprint.
In 2007, ICT accounted for 0.86 metric gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions annually (ca. 2 percent all emissions globally). According to a study done by McKinsey, ICT could develop into one of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters by 2020 (1.54 metric gigatons; ca. 3 percent of all emissions).
What is even more alarming is the fact that these projections already incorporate improvements in the energy efficiency of ICT and its production.

However on the other hand, research also shows that an efficient use of such technology could help reduce carbon dioxide emissions five times beyond what the ICT itself creates (7.8 metric gigatons).

Where does this abatement potential come from? The report examines the optimization potential for energy productivity in four areas – buildings, power, transport, and manufacturing – as well as across these areas.

The greatest impact of ICT could come from a more efficient grid resulting in annual abatement of 2.03 metric gigatons (€61 billion).
Utilizing ICT to built smarter homes and building could contribute with an additional abatement of 1.68 metric gigatons per year.
Smart transportation systems, used to manage transportation flow and optimize loads, would further reduce emissions by 1.52 metric gigatons on a global scale.
The use of smart controls in motors in the manufacturing sector, could lower emissions by 0.68 metric gigatons annually.

The study suggests that a further increase in energy prices and /or the introduction of carbon taxes would induce the demand and supply site of ICT to reconsider their approaches and innovate.  Consequently, IT managers would consider the carbon footprint a more important factor when deciding on which ICT to purchase. This in turn will not only promote more energy efficient ICT but also ICT that will help reduce energy consumption on the demand site.

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