Transformation in the way people and businesses use technology may be able to cut global emissions by 15 per cent by 2020, a new report has said.
According to ENN (Environmental News Network), the report was published by an independent non-profit organization known as The Climate Group and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI).
The report, titled "SMART 2020: Enabling the low carbon economy in the information age", is the world's first comprehensive global study of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector's growing significance for the world's climate.
The report's supporting analysis, conducted independently by international management consultants McKinsey and Company, shows that while ICT's own sector footprint - currently two per cent of global emissions - will almost double by 2020, ICT's unique ability to monitor and maximise energy efficiency both within and outside of its own sector could cut CO2 emissions by up to five times this amount.
This represents a saving of 7.8 Giga-tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) by 2020-greater than the current annual emissions of either the US or China.
Although tele-working, video-conferencing, e-paper, and e-commerce are increasingly commonplace, the report notes that replacing physical products and services with their virtual equivalents (dematerialisation and substitution) is only one part (six per cent) of the estimated low carbon benefits the ICT sector can deliver.
Far greater opportunities for emissions savings exist in applying ICT to global infrastructure and industry and the report examines four major opportunities where ICT can make further transformational cuts in global emissions.
These exist globally within smart building design and use, smart logistics, smart electricity grids, and smart industrial motor systems.
According to Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), "This rigorous assessment underlines that the world can realise a green economy and make the transition to a low carbon economy."
"It also underlines the crucial importance of the international community reaching a deal on a new climate agreement at the climate convention meeting in Copenhagen in 2009."