The extent to which ICT can help reduce CO2 emissions has been made clear by a recent study by WWF and China Mobile.
The report, with the title ‘Low Carbon Telecommunications Solutions in China: Current Reductions and Future Potential’ was presented at a conference in Beijing (there’s an English summary here). It estimated China Mobile prevented 48.5 million tonnes of direct CO2 emissions savings from low carbon telecom solutions provided in 2008 - just over six times the company’s own emissions- rising to 58.2 million tonnes in 2009. The 2008 savings were estimated to be of similar size to the total CO2 emissions of countries like Sweden, Denmark or Finland.
The estimates come from an analysis of 14 low carbon technologies offered by China Mobile, which were categorised into smart logistics, dematerialisation, smart work and smart appliances. The estimates are also said to be conservative, since they don’t allow for indirect savings, e.g. online publication accounts for the energy savings from not using paper, but not the transport and storage implications.
Teleworking, part of the smart work focus, makes the biggest single contribution to reducing emissions, estimated to reach 340 million tonnes of CO2 China-wide by 2020. However, savings from virtual meetings will increase at a much greater rate to an estimated 623 million tonnes of CO2 annually by 2030.
Overall, by 2020 the potential savings from smart logistics, dematerialisation and smart work are expected to reach 615 million tons of CO2, rising to 1298 million tons by 2030. This would make a significant contribution to China’s target to reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by 40 to 45% by 2020.
The figures bring home the scale of savings that can be made by ICT, particularly in a developing economy, where it’s that much easier to introduce new technologies and different working practices along the way.
It’s also important to highlight the positive aspects of what’s being done, which is not always the case with some environmental organisations. As Dermot O’Gorman, the Country Representative of WWF China pointed out; “It is important to pay attention to the companies that deliver the solutions society needs, and not only focus on those that are big emitters. We want to support China and Chinese companies to take the lead in a solution approach that can deliver results not just in China, but globally.” Couldn’t agree more.