Greening ICT


Investments in information and communication technologies (ICT) are set to double by 2020 across the European Union, to match consumers' ever-growing hunger for online services. But this also comes at a cost for the environment in terms of electricity consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. The European Commission is now openly asking itself whether the industry should be regulated.

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Information and communication technologies (ICT) are becoming a pervasive element of everyday life, with companies and consumers demanding ever-faster information and online systems.

A new problem has emerged as a result - the sustainability of ICT itself is becoming a greater concern with the sector's emissions now comparable to those of the aviation sector, which have been regulated at EU level. 

If no action is taken, the ICT sector’s own carbon dioxide emissions are expected to increase, from 530 million tonnes CO2 equivalent in 2002 to 1.43 billion in 2020, according to a report by the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), a consortium of leading global ICT companies.

At the same, the report notes that ICT companies can also enable energy savings in other sectors like transport, industry and buildings, with a potential for reducing carbon emissions by 15% by 2020. The European Commission has recognised this, with research in ICTs due to increase by 46% under the EU's seven-year research programme, Horizon 2020.

ICT companies have also taken voluntary measures to reduce their carbon footprint and cut their energy bills. 

The main question policymakers are now asking themselves is whether voluntary actions are enough or whether specific legislation needs to be adopted for the industry.