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IT big brains call for fast eco-action

The IT industry’s superbrains say companies must ‘act now’ and use low-carbon tech to prevent ‘irreparable harm to the environment’.

Intellect, the trade association for the UK technology industry, has published a report entitled High Tech: Low Carbon, which looks at the issues relating to the energy demands of products and services together with a clear action plan for the sector to address them.

That’s all very well Greenbang thinks, but there’s a lot of these reports being published at the moment. Most of them say ‘act now or die’ or words to that effect, but few really tell you what you need to do.

It’s all down to abstract nouns.

However – what does this one say? Well, see for yourself – it’s not all bad news either:

Sector emissions

According to the report, the energy use related to ICT (information communications technologies) currently accounts for about 2 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions. If all else remained equal, a straight-line projection based on growth in both sectors would suggest that by 2050, we could see a five-fold increase in emissions related ICT and a six-fold increase in the emissions related to consumer electronics (CE).

However, we are already seeing massive improvements in the energy efficiency of both sectors, which is already helping to mitigate this risk. Intellect believes the industry can exceed the target set by the CBI Climate Change Task Force for a 30 per cent improvement in the efficiency of electrical equipment by 2030. Indeed many products will exceed these targets by 2010. These efficiency improvements will be related to when products are both in on mode and standby mode.

Helping other sectors

The report identifies 26 different technologies that can be applied by other sectors of the economy to reduce their carbon emissions. These technologies are not simply ICT-related but encompass related fields such as engineering and biotechnology.

The report concludes that innovation and the intelligent use of technology will be key to reducing carbon emissions across the economy. The technology sector should take a leading role in these two areas.

The report also supports carbon accounting. It believes that making carbon accountable will help drive demand for energy efficient products and services, iron out perverse incentives and create a level playing field for energy efficient manufacturers and will stimulate investment in low carbon technologies.

Timing – we must start now

The UK Government has set emission reductions targets for 2050. According to the report a disastrous build up of CO2 can only be avoided if new low carbon technologies are implemented well in advance of 2050. Rapid innovation cycles in the technology sector mean change can happen at the required pace, however, this will require active stimulation and support from government.

Actions

In the report Intellect makes four main commitments to tackle climate change and has begun to develop projects to help fulfil these commitments:

It will lead a systematic approach to monitor and measure emissions generated by products and services form the UK technology industry. Intellect is working with scientists and technology experts at the University of Warwick to develop a mechanism to help us quantify ICT-related emissions

It will work to improve environmental performance throughout the technology supply chain. Intellect is developing a programme of guidance for its members on improving the energy efficiency of their business and manufacturing processes. The programme – “Who Cares Wins” – aims to help members assess their environmental performance and implement improvements whilst maintaining their competitiveness.

It will stimulate and encourage behavioural change. Intellect is building a web-based tool that will enable consumers to compare the energy efficiency and environmental credentials of a wide range of electronics products against their functionality and purchase price. [Not a bad idea Greenbang thinks]

It will identify and accelerate the development of the best low carbon technologies. Intellect is creating a panel of technology experts from both business and academia will work together to develop a comprehensive summary of the best opportunities for emissions reduction and how they might be optimised.

Intellect’s environment leadership group, which includes Microsoft, Intel, HP, Sharp, Fujitsu and Deloitte, will participate in these programmes and will also work with Intellect to ensure it meets these commitments.

John Higgins, director general of Intellect said: “It is clear that there is considerable scope for improving the energy efficiency of ICT and CE products, irrespective of our sector size, our contribution to GDP or anything else. However, it should also be clear that the technology sector is embracing the challenge of energy efficiency and is producing better, faster, lighter devices that use less and less energy as the result of a continuous process of intensive research and development. But improving efficiency isn’t enough we have to find ways to completely decouple economic growth from energy consumption. This is not an either or scenario – we have to do both.”

Welcoming the report, Dr Andrew Sentance, University of Warwick, said: “As the Stern Review and other recent reports have highlighted, investment in new technologies will be crucial to building the low carbon economy of the future. Across all sectors of the economy, we will need to harness the power of technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is very encouraging to see Intellect and its member companies in the technology sector identifying how they can help meet that challenge and support the move to a more sustainable, low carbon economy.”

The report is available to download at www.intellectuk.org/hightechlowcarbon

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