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ICT climbs sustainability agenda

by Paris Cowan •
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ICT will increasingly be recognised as a key enabler in achieving sustainability and carbon reduction objectives if the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) have their way.

Last week the industry body released a white paper, ICT’s Role in the Low Carbon Economy, outlining their recommendations for kick-starting the sustainability sector and reducing carbon emissions by 21% by 2010.

The report is particularly timely as Prime Minister Julia Gillard has chaired the first meeting of the parliamentary climate change committee in Canberra on Thursday 7 October.  Building consensus on a carbon-reducing mechanism is expected to be a major priority of this parliamentary term.

According to the AIIA, ICT can and will play a role in realising this policy goal.  “ICT is simply the most powerful tool we can utilise to bring about the desired changes, with minimal adverse impact on our prosperity or lifestyles,” the report states.

The recommendations are directed at Government as well as industry and include:

  • Promoting energy efficiency in ICT products;
  • Improving communication and coordination in transport and logistics;
  • Improving standards of energy and temperature management in buildings;
  • Utilising intelligent ICT analysis to provide feedback on industrial energy efficiency; and
  • Employing e-health initiatives for reducing travel and hospital admissions.

The report also places particular emphasis on Smart Grids and Smart Metering, saying that these systems have the potential to reduce the country’s carbon emissions by a greater amount that any other existing technology.

The Government, it says, needs to invest in initiatives and to create a regulatory environment which attracts private investment, to ensure it doesn’t miss the ‘green bandwagon’ and lose the opportunity to become an exporter of sustainable products and technologies.

The report also directs criticism at some of the Green IT initiatives that the Government has undertaken in the past 12 months.

It describes the move to impose minimum sustainability standards on Government suppliers as rash, and suggests that these rules (outlined in the Australian Government ICT Sustainability Plan 2010 - 2015) should be replaced by preferred benchmarks set out in tender documents, so that the industry has time to retire and adjust its product lines.

Concerns are also outlined about the Federal Government’s Data Centre Strategy. The AIIA says there are key omissions from the data centre consolidation plan, such as commitments to supporting future investments and a lack of space to allow for future growth and innovation.

The report is also critical of the decision to delay the implementation of a carbon trading scheme.

The white paper takes a significant step past previous strategy documents such as the 2010-2015 Sustainability Plan, as it situates its focus beyond the IT sector, which is responsible for only about 2.7% of Australia’s total carbon footprint.

Instead, it looks toward using technology as a key tool in realising broader sustainability objectives.

The report has been presented to Senator Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.

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