Enabling a Low-carbon Economy through Smarter use of ICT

According to the newly released SMARTer2020 report, increased use of information and communication technology (ICT) such as video conferencing and smart building management could cut global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 16.5% by 2020, amounting to $1.9 trillion in gross energy and fuel savings. SMARTer2020 shows that concerted action by policy-makers to encourage the use of ICT can save 9.1 Gigatonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) of harmful greenhouse gases from being emitted. 

 

The study was conducted by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), on behalf of the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), an ICT industry partnership for sustainability. It concludes that the potential for information technology to reduce global carbon emissions has been under-estimated until now, and that the abatement potential of ICT is seven times the size of the ICT sector’s own carbon footprint. SMARTer2020 follows up the SMART20201 study, which first evaluated ICT’s potential to enable a lowcarbon economy in 2008. The updated in-depth research in SMARTer2020 now concludes that up to 16.5% of global GHG emissions can be slashed by implementing ICT solutions throughout the economy – over 16% more savings than was calculated in the earlier study four years ago.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Luis Neves, GeSI Chairman, said,“The ICT revolution is powering even more innovations than we had imagined, leading to greater potential to cut GHG emissions, and a smaller ICT footprint. SMARTer2020 shows the abatement potential of ICT is seven times the size of the ICT sector’s direct emissions. Information technology can drive the transition to a low carbon economy, with greater efficiency, and the preservation of our environment.” 

ICTs and Sustainability

 

The new research study identifies GHG abatement potential from ICT-enabled solutions ranging across six sectors of the economy: power, transportation, manufacturing, consumer and service, agriculture,and buildings. Emission reductions come from virtualization initiatives such as cloud computing and video conferencing, but also through efficiency gains such as optimization of variable-speed motors in manufacturing, smart livestock management to reduce methane emissions, and 32 other ICT-enabled solutions identified in the study. Some ICT-driven solutions such as smart electricity grids reap benefits at the national level, whilst others like intelligent building management systems can result in energy – and cost – savings for individual households and businesses.

Alongside the sectoral analysis, SMARTer2020 includes detailed national studies of the GHG abatement potential of ICT in seven countries, identifying for each country the best strategies for policy-makers to pursue. The countries studied were Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Philipp Jung, a San Francisco-based partner at BCG, added, “This study shows that information and communications technology can achieve even greater savings than we previously thought — as much as $1.9 trillion annually by 2020. The research also shows that country-specific approaches, coordinated within a global framework, are essential to realizing this potential given the diverse country-specific circumstances.”

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