While December's meeting in Copenhagen may not have produced any concrete commitments, it hasn't stopped many businesses and governments from making headway to becoming more efficient and sustainable. As debates rage around policies, the science, CO2 reduction targets and the price of carbon, the information and communications technology (ICT) industry continues to support efforts to reduce energy consumption and waste.
The Climate Group, BT and the Digital Energy Solutions Campaign (DESC) announced a 'SMART 2020: Pathways to Scale' report and website that is designed to track progress made by the ICT industry in tackling climate change.
It contains case studies that detail strategies to use ICT to reduce environmental impacts. For example, you can learn how the State of Missouri deployed a building automation system that optimized their energy use and reduced their $300 million operations and maintenance bill by an estimated $35.6 million annually. Or how the city of Seoul is creating an "infrastructure that makes traffic flows more efficient and lowers carbon emissions from road transformation."
These successes are echoed in a new AT&T white paper . This paper introduces "the network offset effect," which "describes the positive sustainability value creation that takes place when activities that have a high environmental impact can be replaced with low carbon alternatives." It contains ICT-related tactics that their customers have deployed to create "smart workplaces", "smart data centers", "smart transportation" and "smart electric grid" solutions that improve their bottom-line, as well as achieve environmental and social benefits.
I think it's important to look beyond the sometimes blatant marketing messages of these resources and focus on the substance - people are making changes. They are using ICT to optimize resources utilization and reduce their environmental impacts. When the Climate Group's report "Smart 2020: Enabling the Low Carbon Economy in the Information Age," came out in 2008, it represented a lot of opportunity.
The report, done in partnership with GeSI, with analysis by McKinsey, outlined all the ways in which the global ICT industry could be used to reduce global emissions by 15% by 2020. It seems businesses and governments listened, and are turning those opportunities into realities. They are using ICT to both reduce their emissions and reap some of the $500 billion in savings estimated to be on the table by the Smart 2020 report.
The use of ICT to tackle climate issues is growing in sophistication, as well as the methods for tracking and measuring their effectiveness. For instance, the AT&T paper has an interesting model for calculating emission reductions as the result of telepresence. And industry consortiums, such as ATIS and ITU, are making headway around establishing much needed energy efficiency standards for the industry. Plus, there are long-term initiatives finally coming to fruition, such as IEEE 802.3az, which promises to reduce the power consumed by the Ethernet equipment that is used to run public (Internet) and private networks everywhere.
I think this points to the ever-increasing maturity of this space, which makes me hopeful that real progress is possible. And, as I discuss in my book, while there are still a lot of moving parts and decisions to be made, ICT represents one of the best hopes we have to ensuring our world is a more sustainable one.