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Intellect implores tech sector to go green by 2020

The UK tech industry has 12 years left to reduce its carbon footprint and help avert disastrous climate change, says the IT trade association
Written by Nick Heath, Contributor

The UK technology industry has just 12 years to slash its rapidly growing carbon footprint if it is to help the world avoid catastrophic climate change, a study has found.

The IT and consumer electronics sector needs to act now by keeping tabs on its CO2 emissions, pushing customers towards greener behaviour and accelerating the implementation of low-carbon technology and practices, according to the report by Intellect, the UK trade association for technology.

The report states that IT accounts for about two percent of global CO2 emissions and warns that, without action, there will be a five-fold increase in emissions related to IT and a six-fold increase in emissions related to consumer electronics.

The widespread implementation of low-carbon technology holds the key to stave off damaging temperature rises of two degrees centigrade or more the report states, adding that this needs to happen by 2020. It warns that waiting until 2040 would be to "court disaster".

The report identifies 26 different technologies that can be applied by other sectors of the economy to reduce their carbon emissions.

Emma Fryer, Intellect programme manager for energy and the environment, spelled out the dangers of ignoring the report's recommendations.

Fryer said: "The consequence is to end up raising the temperature of the atmosphere way beyond two degrees centigrade. We are talking about implementing this by somewhere around 2015, not 2040."

Intellect claims the technology industry can exceed the target set by the CBI Climate Change Task Force for a 30 percent improvement in the efficiency of electrical equipment by 2030.

The report points to efficiency and standby improvements in products such as LCD and plasma flatscreens and more efficient future displays such as OLEDs and FEDs. Fryer also referred to innovations such as Bye Bye Standby — a device that can switch off plugs with a remote control.

Fryer told ZDNet.co.uk sister site silicon.com that technology companies need to think about measures such as rebuilding data centres around energy efficiency, for example by scaling down data centres containing non-mission critical data.

The report also supports carbon accounting — attaching a cost to producing CO2 — as a way of driving demand for energy-efficient products and services.

Intellect is hoping to drive these green changes forward by:

  • Working with scientists at the University of Warwick to develop a mechanism for allowing business to quantify IT-related emissions
  • Developing a programme of guidance for its members on improving the energy efficiency of their business and manufacturing processes
  • Building a web-based tool for consumers to compare energy efficiency, lifespan and other environmental credentials of different electronic products
  • Creating a panel of technology experts, from both business and academia, to develop a summary of the best opportunities for emissions reduction and how to optimise them
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