Assessment criteria for policy on ICT and climate change

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Innovations in Sharing Environmental Observations and Information
Information Technology for Climate Change Mitigation
Shaker Verlag
There is an important connection between ICT-based innovation, environment and climate change. ICTs have a direct impact on the environment, consuming energy, materials and producing e-waste. But ICTs are the major enabling technology for mitigation of environmental impacts across all economic sectors. ICTs can contribute in achieving more sustainable lifestyles, consumption and production. ICT applications can help limit energy use and material consumption. In other words ICTs can be the driver for an emission reduction policy. Public policies can be pivotal in promoting a “smarter and greener ICT”. Government policies can support the application of ICTs across the economy, to tackle the challenges of global warming and environmental degradation. But potential benefits have to be quantified, in order to be fostered, planned, monitored and assessed. An effective ICTbased emission reduction policy needs an assessment of the “net” environmental impacts of green ICTs. This assessment have to take into consideration all kind of effects, both positive and negative, that have to be analyzed and quantified. Systemic impact of ICTs and their environmental repercussions are relatively unexplored, mainly because of the complexity of assessing future directions of production and consumption. Incomplete data, the difficulty of covering incoming effects and changing general framework conditions are complex issues to deal with. Nevertheless, a serious assessment on the medium- long term "net environmental impact" of ICTs need to take into account changes in user behaviour. For accountability is important to monitor policies and evaluate their outcomes. This leads to link policy objectives to measurable output targets. International reports and studies have used available data to outline the main trends. There is a gap in the analysis of first, second and third order effects of ICTs. The first ones are relatively well known and quite easy to measure. The second ones are difficult to foresee and only at a magnitude order level, but the third ones are really hard to assess. International organizations, like OECD, suggest to further research into the systemic impacts – intended and unintended – of the diffusion of ICTs. It's important to understand how ICTs and the Internet contribute to environmental policy goals, such as fostering renewable energy sources, reducing transport volumes, optimizing household energy use and reducing material throughputs. The position paper wants to highlight some methodological open issues. The paper will try and introduce the possibility to follow an Agent Based Model approach to model the rebound effects. This approach needs to cross disciplinary borders between ICTs, energy and environment disciplines as well as social and behavioural sciences.
Sissa, Giovanna (2011): Assessment criteria for policy on ICT and climate change. Innovations in Sharing Environmental Observations and Information. Aachen: Shaker Verlag. Information Technology for Climate Change Mitigation. Ispra. 2011