British companies are being urged to adopt the energy-saving measures outlined in the newly-published EU Code of Conduct for Data Centres in an effort to address the IT industry's contribution to climate change.
Data centres store the servers that act as the backbone of the internet, hosting websites, carrying out financial transactions, transferring emails and running online computer games.
They are responsible for almost three per cent of electricity use in the UK and this is expected to double by 2020.
In an effort to keep its own house in order, Defra will be working with the IBM data centre used for its own systems to ensure it complies with the code within 12 months.
Lord Hunt, Minister for Sustainable Development and Energy Innovation, welcomed the launch of the code of conduct.
"If we are to tackle dangerous climate change, we need to reduce emissions and the decision businesses make play a key role in meeting this challenge," he said.
"By signing up to this new code of conduct companies can save energy and save money too, which goes to show that what's good for the environment is good for business."
The UK is the first country in the world to set legally binding targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In order to achieve the ambitious target of an 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gasses by 2050, everyone must play a part.
The EU code was developed in close collaboration with the industry, including the British Computer Society.
Signatories to the code will be expected to implement best practice on energy efficiency, meet minimum procurement standards and annually report energy consumption.
This might mean that companies decommission old servers, reduce the amount of air conditioning they use, or maximise the use of a server by running multiple applications.
Government predicts the code should help save 4.7 million tonnes of CO2 over the next six years, equivalent to taking more than a million cars off the road.
Bob Harvey, Chair of the British Computer Society carbon footprint working group, said: "The British Computer Society welcomes the publication of a European code of conduct for data centre operators.
"We see this as a vital step forward for the industry in encouraging IT management and data centre operators to focus on the appropriate issues. This is one of the key issues for the industry today and in the future and it is something that the BCS, as a professional body for IT practitioners are working to support."
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