2050Today - Climate Action

Sustainable IT

Climate action on Sustainable IT

Smartphones, computers, tablets, televisions and other connected objects give a feeling of immaterial connection, yet they are all very real objects. From their manufacture to their end-of-life, they have an impact on the environment, including during their use. Relay antennas, satellites, servers and data centres are needed to transport, process and store all our data. The digital sector mobilises a lot of resources, accounting for 2 to 4% of total greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, a growing proportion that corresponds to that of air transport. It consumes around 10% of electricity in Europe, and in Switzerland nearly 8% of electricity is used by internet-related infrastructures. By way of comparison, the railways consume just over 5% in Switzerland and public lighting less than 1%. The space used by 93 data centres based in Switzerland is equivalent to almost 154,000 m2, or around 24 football pitches. They alone consume 3.6% of the country’s electricity. Conducting a simple search on the web corresponds to the emission of around 7 grams of CO2, and sending an e-mail generates just under 20 grams. On average, an institution emits more than 130 kg of CO2 per employee each year just from email activity alone.

The impact of digital technology is therefore a rising source of environmental concern, as data centres and computer servers are growing to support various online activities. Societies become increasingly digital with online services and content available and consumed continuously. To minimise this environmental impact, there is a need to change practices and customs and implement a sustainable IT approach that helps benefit from the ICT potential for improvement while reducing its harmful consequences.

While digital technology definitely has a carbon footprint, it can also be a lever for reducing that of other sectors. Creating a digital solution to a given problem in order to reduce its footprint is known as IT for Green. This digital solution for sustainability must be advocated for while developing it in such a way as to reduce its environmental impact.

Sustainable IT Objectives

The 2050Today Charter recommends institutions to take action towards the following Sustainable IT objectives when defining their action plan.

1. Streamlining IT Equipment

2. Reducing IT environmental impact

3. Optimizing IT energy consumption

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