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SMART 2020: How ICT can save the economy

12:00AM, 19 November 2008
12:00AM, 19 November 2008
To Be Confirmed
SMART 2020: How ICT can save the economy

On 18 November, The Climate Group and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSi) hosted SMART 2020: How IT Can Save the Economy in Washington, DC.

Over 80 representatives from business and policy arenas convened to examine the implications of the recently published SMART 2020: enabling the low carbon economy in the information age.

The report outlines the dramatic impact information and communications technology (ICT) can have on climate change. While the global carbon footprint of ICT will almost double by 2020, the report show that, with clear and consistent supporting policies in place, ICT is uniquely positioned to help other sectors of the economy reduce {CO2} emissions by up to five times this amount.

Participants at the DC event were also presented the results of a follow-up study, commissioned by GeSI and written by The Boston Consulting Group. This follow-up - the US Addendum - outlined a series of specific policy recommendations which could help unlock ICT's potential in the US.

The Addendum estimates that ICT-enabled solutions could cut annual {CO2} emissions in the US some 13-22% from business-as-usual projections in 2020. Such reductions would translate to a gross energy and fuel savings worth US$140-240 billion, equivalent to reducing oil consumption 11-21% and oil imports 20-36%.

The US Addendum describes four main opportunities to achieve this:

. A smart electrical grid could reduce {CO2} emissions 230-480 million metric tons (MMT) of {CO2} and save US$15-35 billion in energy and fuel costs

. Smart buildings that consume less energy could save 270-360 MMT {CO2} and save US$40-50 billion

. More efficient road transportation could reduce travel time and congestion, eliminating 240-440 MMT {CO2} emissions and saving US$65-115 billion

. Travel substitution such as virtual meetings and flexible work arrangements could reduce {CO2} by 70-130 MMT and save US$20-40 billion

Both the Addendum and the SMART 2020 report emphasize that, in many cases, the technology to achieve these savings already exists. However, economic, behavioral and informational challenges stand in the way of realizing these gains, and markets have thus far been slow in adopting them. Consistent and clearly defined government policy is therefore necessary to achieve full climate benefits of ICT.

Speakers and panelists at the DC event discussed the findings of the two reports and options for state and federal government to create policies that will facilitate the rapid adoption of ICT solutions that can support dramatic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, deliver significant cost savings and boost economic growth.

"The SMART 2020 report showed the opportunity for ICT to make energy visible, which can enable significant greenhouse gas reductions through greater efficiency and better use of energy by business and consumers," said Chris Walker, North America Director of The Climate Group. "Now, we need to look for ways to deliver on that promise."

Award-winning author and environmentalist - and a frequent contributor to The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly and Washington Post, Bill McKibben delivered the keynote address. Panelists included Markus Loeffler, Principal, McKinsey & Company; Chris Walker, Director of North America, The Climate Group; Kathryn C. Brown, Sr. VP of Public Policy Development and CSR, Verizon Communications; Stephen Harper, Global Director, Environment and Energy Policy, Intel; Adam Golodner, Director, Global Security and Technology Policy, Global Policy and Government Affairs, Cisco Systems; Kim Nelson, Executive Director of EGov and Health and Safety, Microsoft; Kathleen Hogan, Director of Climate Protection Partnerships Division, EPA; and Joseph Romm, Senior Fellow, The Center for American Progress

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