LCA Tool Measures How ICT Can Reduce GHG Emissions

The information and communication technologies (ICT) sector recently released a methodology to measure how new initiatives and technologies, such as smart buildings or videoconferencing systems, can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The tool, outlined in "Evaluating the Carbon-Reducing Impacts of ICT," is a follow-up to a widely-cited report that predicted the ICT sector can reduce global GHG emissions by as much as 15 percent over the next 10 years. The original SMART 2020 study, published in 2008, estimated that ICT could save companies as much as $725 billion by 2020 through improved efficiency. As a whole, the sector is responsible for an estimated 2 percent of global GHG emissions.

"A greater understanding of the carbon-reducing potential of these ICT products and services will greatly accelerate their adoption," wrote The Boston Consulting Group, which prepared "Evaluating the Carbon-Reducing Impacts of ICT." "To this end, a common means of assessing the low-carbon enabling effects of ICT solutions is required. Without a standard methodology for assessment, the rate of investment in ICT to combat climate change may slow and lose focus, despite scientific consensus that immediate direct action is needed to halt climate change."

The tool uses a life cycle assessment (LCA) approach, but goes further by also considering the emissions saved or generated by changes in the business as usual scenario as a result of the ICT solution. The methodology is based on three steps: defining the goal and scope of the study; limiting the life cycle processes of relevant components identified in step 1; and assessing and interpreting the net enabling effect.

The report, produced on behalf of the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), also includes six case studies illustrating how the ICT Enablement Methodology works.

For example, Microlise offers software designed to reduce corporate fleet emissions. A study performed on how the software would impact a representative client showed a 7.9 percent improvement in fuel efficiency in 17 weeks, which translates to an annual emissions reduction rate of 661 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user D'Arcy Norman.