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ITU Claims Broadband Can Reduce Greenhouse Gasses and Save the Planet

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012 (8:44 am) - Score 377

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which is part of the United Nations, has released an interesting new report that highlights a number of different ways in which broadband internet access can help to reduce greenhouse gasses (GHGs), mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change and promote resource efficiency, while at the same time “building more prosperous and inclusive societies“.

The report (‘Broadband Bridge: Linking ICT with Climate Action‘), which is apparently based on interviews, case studies and supporting material from “more than 20 leaders and experts” in the field, includes ten recommendations (below) for governments around the world. It hopes they will bring us closer to a low-carbon economy, yet it also warns that this will require “completely transforming our way of life“.

ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun Touré, said:

Addressing climate change implies completely transforming our way of life, the way we work, the way we travel, shifting our model of development to a fairer, more sustainable model to ensure our survival. We need to put at stake all the resources available to us, and mobilize the political will to turn discussions and negotiations into agreements and actions.”

The Broadband Commission’s 10 Recommendations

1. Lead with vision: adopt a long-term National Broadband Plan/Strategy based on universal affordability and accessibility, open markets and innovation, and consciously connect this to your climate goals.

2. Bring convergence: Bring convergence to ICT policy formulation so that it aligns with other policy areas such as energy, health, education and climate in order to maximize impact.

3. Ensure regulatory certainty: Ensure clear regulatory rules and regulations on climate and broadband to create a framework of investment certainty.

4. Be an example: drive cross-ministry collaboration and integrated decision-making to align climate and digital goals, and use government procurement to send the right market signals.

5. Foster flexibility: identify and remove the regulatory and policy barriers currently hindering research and investment in 21st century ICT-based broadband-enabled infrastructure and low carbon solutions.

6. Provide incentives: encourage uptake of low-carbon solutions and support market change by rewarding or incentivizing desired consumer behaviours. Spur innovation among individuals, companies and sectors.

7. Build the market: fund and facilitate scalable pilots to demonstrate feasibility and effectiveness of broadband as an enabler of low-carbon solutions and build a strong business case to attract private investment.

8. Form partnerships: cultivate connectivity and ‘co-creativity’ across public, private and non-governmental sectors and industries to help develop a collaborative mindset, shared goals and a common language, and to help break down silos.

9. Measure and standardize: develop harmonized metrics and measurements and common standards for calculating both the environmental impacts of ICTs and the positive contribution technology can make to other sectors – from individual products to systems, and from individual households to the city and/or national levels.

10. Share knowledge and raise awareness: actively disseminate project findings, share best practice and learn from mistakes to identify success factors and facilitate leapfrogging, especially among less developed markets. Communicate the opportunities and synergies that can be achieved through an integrated, trans-sector approach to digital development infrastructure and low carbon solutions.

The vast majority of ideas above seem fairly plausible, although many of the recommendations are already being employed as part of broadband technology’s natural expansion. Remote working, less physical travel and a significantly reduced need for paper in communications are just three obvious changes that have already had a big impact upon both businesses and consumers around the world.

The ITU’s report also fits in nicely alongside the UN’s existing Digital Development Targets (details), which aims for all countries to have a national broadband plan or strategy or include broadband in their Universal Access / Service Definitions by 2015.

It also wants “developing countries” to ensure that citizens can access affordable entry-level broadband services by the same date (note: the ITU’s minimum speed for broadband is a lowly 256kbps but then we are talking about the whole world here).

Broadband Bridge: Linking ICT with Climate Action (PDF)
http://www.broadbandcommission.org/Documents/Climate/BD-bbcomm-climate.pdf

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