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At Microsoft, we are reminded daily of our industry’s impact on climate change – both positive and negative – and we are working constantly to reduce our carbon footprint and lead the way for others in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector. In 2008 we supported an independent study by the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) called SMART 2020 to determine the carbon-reducing potential of ICT. The results showed that 7.8 gigatons ofcarbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e), or 15% of global emissions, could be reduced through the use of ICT solutions.
This Monday at the COP18 climate change conference in Doha, Qatar, GeSI and the Boston Consulting Group released SMARTer 2020. This updated report indicates that ICT-enabled solutions now offer the potential to reduce annual emissions by 9.1 GtCO2e by 2020, representing 16.5% of the projected total in that year. This figure represents a potential to reduce carbon emissions by more than 16% compared to the 2008 report, showing an increasing role for technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
For the ICT sector, the impact on climate change extends beyond the industry itself; the ICT-enabled abatement potential of 9.1 GtCO2e is seven times the size of the sector's direct emissions, which means that technology has the potential to achieve emissions reductions across many sectors of the global economy. From improving operational efficiencies through smart technology and economies of scale to trip reduction and resource preservation through digitalization, the potential for ICT to transform numerous industry sectors is far-reaching.
For policy makers, the report illustrates how ICT can accelerate our progress toward low-carbon economies, and how the right frameworks that leverage ICT to achieve sustained growth and long-term societal benefits can enable regional political, market, human and social capital. The report calls for concerted action by global leaders to encourage the deployment of ICT abatement solutions. The SMARTer2020 report includes detailed national studies of the greenhouse gas (GHG) abatement potential of ICT in seven countries, identifying how ICT is a critical tool in facilitating the transition to a low-carbon economy and providing specific guidance to policy makers on actions they can take to realize the significant GHG reduction potential outlined in the report.
As innovation in the ICT sector continues, we can expect further reductions in carbon emissions through technology solutions by 2020. At Microsoft, we will continue to look for more ways not only to achieve our own carbon neutrality goals but to use technology to help society reduce its footprint.
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