Fight Against Extinction: The Critical Role of the ITU in a World Failing to Address Climate Commitments

According to a November 2021 survey of IPCC scientists, a large majority believe that we are heading for a 3,0°C global temperature increase due to political inaction. In this context, it is urgent to rethink the role of digitalization and its contribution to global warming, according to scientific evidence. It is risky to assume that the new efficiencies enabled by ICT will suddenly start creating significant carbon savings in the economy at large without a strategic role for governance. Therefore, the catalytic role of the ITU must be even more critical, assertive, and decisive for the challenge of the climate crisis so as to be able to drive digital environmental justice. To this end, we suggest five actions (of many others that can be implemented), based on scientific evidence, that can be considered by ITU around greenhouse gas emissions due to ICT use:

  1. Adopt the precautionary approach on the contribution of ICTs to energy efficiency and, consequently, to their supposed contribution to reducing CO2 emissions from other sectors. Until scientific consensus indicates more unambiguous evidence for action (which relates to our proposal number 2), the precautionary principle should be standard for ITU, industry, and States.

  2. Promoting multidisciplinary and independent scientific research, both empirical and theoretical, on the environmental impact of ICTs (especially the digital rebound effect and the intensive use of other natural resources).

  3. Encourage States and the ICT industry, as well as industrial sectors benefiting from the innovations of digitization, to produce standardized open data on energy use and the environmental impact of technologies in their production areas. This is key for our proposal one and two.

  4. Promote with the States standardized methodologies and incentives that encourage ICT sector companies, differentiated according to their size and sector, to commit to achieving net-zero or carbon-negative emissions before 2050, and establish a detailed roadmap of sectoral targets.

  5. Promote initiatives for enterprising States to stimulate innovative, socially acceptable, and sustainable technological developments and policies with all stakeholders.

You can download our complete report here.