A new report called Smart 2020, published by The Climate Group and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative, says transformation in the way people and businesses use technology could reduce annual man-made global emissions by 15pc by 2020 and deliver energy efficiency savings to global businesses of over €500bn.
The report says the information and communication technology (ICT) sector’s unique ability to monitor and maximise energy efficiency could result in a saving of 7.8 giga-tonnes of carbon-dioxide equivalent by 2020 – greater than the current annual emissions of either the US or China.
“The ICT industry contributes to about 2pc of worldwide emissions. Projecting forward to 2020, this is probably going to grow about threefold because we will be using more data-intensive services and data-centre capacity will have to grow,” said Dr Chris Tuppen, BT’s director of sustainability and one of the authors of the report.
“The industry has to be absolutely innovative in terms of finding as many ways as it can to produce lower energy consuming devices and running the networks and data centres in dramatically more energy efficient ways.”
Although tele-working, videoconferencing, e-paper and e-commerce are increasingly commonplace, the report notes that replacing physical products and services with their virtual equivalents is only one part of the estimated low-carbon benefits the ICT sector can deliver.
Far greater opportunities for emissions savings exist, it says, in applying ICT to global infrastructure and industry and the report examines four major opportunities: smart building design and use; smart logistics; smart electricity grids and smart industrial motor systems.
“ICT is one of the major technologies that could delver a low-carbon economy and this hasn’t really been recognised,” said Tuppen, who has been described as one of the ‘Top 50 people in the world who will save the planet’.
By Sorcha Corcoran