Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Here's how to solve global warming: Use ICT

BRUSSELS – Information and communications technologies (ICT) could bring far-ranging levels of sustainable prosperity and opportunity to all corners of the world within the next 15 years, according to research published by the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) and Accenture.

The report, SMARTer2030, shows that as smart phones, networked sensors, smart grids and other ICT devices become faster, cheaper and more available globally, they have the potential to deliver profound environmental, economic and social benefits. These include a 20 percent reduction of global carbon emissions by 2030, over $11 trillion dollars in new economic benefits, the ability to extend e-healthcare to an additional 1.6 billion more people worldwide, and an estimated 30% increase in agriculture yields.

"Our findings show an ICT-enabled world by 2030 that is cleaner, healthier and more prosperous with greater opportunities for individuals everywhere," said Luis Neves, chairman of GeSI.

Major findings of the study include:
* ICT can enable a 20 percent reduction of global CO2e emissions by 2030, holding emissions at 2015 levels. Besides the environmental benefits, this dramatic shift also means that policy or business leaders would no longer be forced to make tradeoffs between economic prosperity and environmental protection.

* ICT emissions as a percentage of global emissions and in absolute quantities will decrease over time. The SMARTer2030 report shows the ICT emissions "footprint" is expected to decrease to 1.97 percent of global emissions by 2030 compared to 2.3 percent forecast by 2020.

* ICT offers significant environmental benefits in addition to reducing carbon emissions. The most substantial benefits identified by this study include: increasing agricultural crop yields by 30 percent, saving 25 billion barrels of oil per year and saving 300 trillion liters of water per year.

* An assessment of eight sectors of the global economy energy, food, manufacturing, health, building, work/business, learning,
mobility/logistics shows that ICT could generate over $11 trillion in economic benefits per year by 2030, the equivalent of China’s annual GDP in 2015.

* ICT will connect 2.5 billion additional people to the "knowledge economy" by 2030, giving 1.6 billion more people access to healthcare and a half-billion more people access to e-learning tools.
* Worldwide growth of the digital economy continues to accelerate, providing the scale necessary to drive greater connectivity and new, disruptive business models. And, as opposed to the old production-line economy, individuals are firmly in the center of this process.

"The ICT industry offers tremendous benefits: more resource and
cost-efficient businesses that are less harmful to the environment,
improvements in services with significant societal benefits and new sources of economic growth," said Neves.

"This new study is based on in-depth modeling, unprecedented in its range, into the potential for ICT to disrupt business as usual and radically reshape the way we live, as well as reducing the impact that continued economic growth has on our environment. ICT can help break the link between economic development and resource depletion, with emissions savings close  to 10 times those generated by the ICT sector itself."

"The SMARTer2030 report comes six months before the crucial United Nations climate change conference in Paris in 2015," said UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres. "The long term outcome of the new agreement requires a peaking of global emissions in ten years’ time and a dramatic bending of the emissions curve thereafter. This report underlines the pivotal role of ICT in assisting to achieve these aims."

ICT-enabled services could also generate US$6 trillion in ICT-enabled annual revenue opportunities and US$5 trillion in annual savings from lower consumption of energy, fuel and other resources, according to the report.

SMARTer2030 follows GeSI’s 2012 report, SMARTer2020, which calculated reduced greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption. In addition to identifying the business benefits of technology enabled sustainable business models, the new report goes further by pointing to three important changes accelerating ICT’s potential to drive these benefits:

* ICT now puts the user at the center of solutions, empowering individuals with services from patient-centric e-health to flexible, on-demand learning.

* As the number of connected devices is expected to grow to 100 billion by 2030 , the potential to drive societal and environmental value grows significantly.

* ICT is enabling new and profitable disruptive business models that are separating growth from carbon and resource intensity.

Peter Lacy, managing director of Accenture Strategy, said: "This US$11 trillion opportunity shows that digital can improve the financial and business case for investing in socially and environmentally responsible products and services. Not only are new technologies easily available, but they are able to directly improve the quality of people’s lives. And they are now able to do so at massive scale, enabling sustainable business models to become mainstream and a source of competitiveness and growth."

SMARTer2030 identifies three key stakeholder groups and recommends actions the could prioritise for a more sustainable, profitable future: 

* Policy makers should create the right policy environment. In particular, setting national CO2 targets, recognizing the critical role of ICT, creating investment incentives to connect the unconnected with new infrastructure and ensuring a stable and balanced regulatory approach to ICT.

* Businesses should recognize the growth and innovation opportunities enabled by ICT that make sustainable investments viable.

* Consumers should be encouraged to adopt technology solutions that promote resource efficiency, such as those typified by the sharing economy. -end-

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