Can ICT Solutions Sustainably Grow the World’s Economies?
A new study concludes that broad use new high-tech solutions can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 16.5 percent by 2020 and help grow the world’s economies. The new GeSI SMARTer2020 report says that the broad use of smart grids, buildings and transport systems enhanced by information communications technology could yield $1.9 trillion in savings for consumers and businesses and create 29.5 million jobs globally.
The report demonstrates that the abatement potential of Information Communications Technology (ICT) is seven times the size of the ICT sector’s direct emissions. ICT-enabled solutions offer the potential to reduce annual emissions by an estimated 9.1 GtCO2e (gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent) by 2020, representing 16.5 percent of the projected total in that year.
Of significant importance, SMARTer2020 demonstrates how ICT-enabled solutions offer the opportunity to sustainably grow the world’s economies.
Specifically, the report’s findings demonstrate that ICT is an important tool in facilitating the transition to a low carbon economy; maximizing the energy efficiency savings available through ICT could yield $1.9 trillion in savings for consumers and businesses and create 29.5 million jobs globally. GeSI has posted a short video summarizing the report’s conclusions.
The report updates and significantly expands on the original Smart 2020 report GeSI published in 2008, SMART 2020: Enabling the low carbon economy in the information age. That report examined the emissions profile of the ICT industry and identified the potential for ICT-enabled solutions (smart grids, buildings and transport systems) to help reduce carbon emissions and facilitate the transition to a more sustainable economy. The report concluded that the ICT industry’s emissions could reach almost 3 percent of global emissions by 2020, but that ICT-enabled solutions could deliver a 15 percent reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions and up to a 22 percent reduction in U.S. emissions by 2020. In other words, the enablement potential of ICT was estimated to be more than five-times the industry’s own emissions.
A lot has changed since 2008. The importance of mobile communications, especially machines talking to machines, cloud computing, along with smarter devices and applications, have enabled ICT to permeate new industry sectors like agriculture, increasing the emissions abatement potential associated with ICT. In fact, SMARTer2020 indicates that the abatement potential of ICT is now more than 16 percent higher than previously calculated in the original SMART 2020 report.
The new report includes analysis of the barriers to adoption of ICT solutions, suggestions for policy-makers, as well as sectorial analysis, case-studies and individual country reports with recommendations.
I encourage you to spend some time reviewing the SMARTer2020 report. Whether you are in the energy, transportation, building, manufacturing, consumer service or agriculture sector, or a policy maker, reducing emissions while maintaining economic growth and improving quality of life is one of the fundamental challenges of the twenty-first century.