*The text below is an adapted version of my opening remarks at a forum on ‘frontier technologies to tackle climate change and achieve a circular economy’ held within ITU Green Standards Week in Valencia, Spain.
Climate change is the greatest challenge facing humanity.
The challenge is of a scale that demands bold, decisive action.
This action will make full use of frontier technologies in fields such as Artificial Intelligence and blockchain.
With ICTs everywhere, data is being generated everywhere.
We are developing the ability to visualize the earth’s processes over long periods of time. We are gaining new insight into the behaviour of our economies and societies.
We see new opportunities for automation to increase efficiency and sustainability. And we are devising more sustainable ways of managing natural resources.
Smart energy, intelligent transport, smart agriculture, and smart cities… The language of sustainable development is now informed, to a great extent, by advances in ICT.
Frontier technologies have great potential to support climate action.
But to achieve this potential, we must consider all possible impacts of these technologies – we must consider their externalities.
We are building more and more datacentres. These datacentres consume a great volume of energy.
We are producing more and more ICTs, with the result that e-waste has become the world’s fastest-growing waste stream.
It is crucial that we take a holistic view of emerging technologies and their application.
This holistic view is what drives ITU standardization work for the environment and circular economy.
To give just a few examples, ITU standards provide methodologies to assess the environmental impacts of ICTs; they provide frameworks for the sound management of e-waste; they assist the recycling of rare-metal components of ICTs; and they provide mechanisms to optimize the energy efficiency of datacentres.
We have also created a new ITU Focus Group to study environmental efficiency in the age of Artificial Intelligence, increasing automation, and smart manufacturing.
We welcome your participation. ITU Focus Groups are open to all interested parties.