The IT industry will be mentioned in the draft climate treaty that will form the basis for negotiations at next month's UN summit in Copenhagen, following a successful lobbying campaign from the international body that regulates the IT and telecommunications industry.
The International Telecommunications Union said that the main aim of its push to have IT included in the treaty is to see energy-efficient IT projects included in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) offsetting scheme, or any successor to it.
The CDM allows emission-reduction projects in developing countries to issue carbon credits or Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) that can be sold to governments and businesses in richer nations to generate an additional revenue stream for low-carbon investments.
The CDM initiative currently covers a wide range of renewable energy and energy-efficiency projects, controversially including investments in so-called clean coal technologies. But it does not accept emission-reduction projects based on the rollout of more energy-efficient IT and telecommunications systems.
Malcolm Johnson, director of the ITU's standardisation bureau, said that including IT projects in the CDM would stimulate significant investment from IT companies while also helping to aid development in poorer nations. "This is a way of bridging the digital divide and tackling climate change," he said. "It's a win-win situation."
The ITU said that awarding CDM credits for IT projects would bolster the business case for IT firms to invest in the development of smart grids, intelligent transport systems and high-speed broadband in developing countries - all of which can also serve to curb emissions growth.
The group argues that IT firms will invest in developing countries regardless of the industry's inclusion in the CDM, and as a result provide them with the opportunity to earn carbon credits which will give them an incentive to ensure their investments are environmentally sustainable.
For example, instead of simply replacing the mobile phone masts that provide the telecoms infrastructure in African countries, firms would receive carbon credits if they installed replacement masts that are powered by onsite renewable energy systems.
Cisco chief executive John Chambers and Ericsson chief executive Carl-Henric Svanberg are understood to be lobbying the US and Danish government respectively to get IT mentioned more widely in the Copenhagen agreement.
Johnson said the ITU has also written to all governments that will be present at Copenhagen and asked them to push for changes to the CDM to include IT.
The proposals are also understood to have the support of Ban Ki-moon, secretary general of the UN, who is likely to mention the importance of IT in reducing emissions in his opening speech at Copenhagen.
But the ITU still fears that any mention of IT could be dropped from the treaty in the frantic trading that goes on during negotiations.
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