Need to dramatically cut carbon emissions? ICT can do that

Wed, 2015-07-15 06:00 -- SCC Staff

There’s no question that cities are growing fast. Meantime, there’s more attention than ever on cutting carbon emissions in an attempt to mitigate climate change.

The two trends seem mutually exclusive, but a new report shared by Council Lead Partner Microsoft finds cities have a powerful solution in their toolkit. It’s information and communications technology (ICT).

And we’re not talking about a minor help. ICT could essentially help cities maintain today’s level of emissions 15 years into the future – even with dramatic growth.

Not only that, the technology is clearly getting better. The forecasted reductions in the report are a third better than the estimates from just three years ago.

Managing emissions despite growth
By 2030, the SMARTer 2030 report finds that ICT could cut global carbon dioxide emissions by 20%. That’s enough of a reduction to offset additional emissions resulting from growth.

Beyond the environmental benefits, the report also finds that ICT could generate $11 trillion in sustainable benefits, which is no small chunk of change. That’s larger than the forecast for China’s Gross Domestic Product this year.

Where the reductions come from
The report finds ICT has the biggest potential to reduce emissions in mobility. It forecasts a reduction of nearly 3.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide in that sector alone. Manufacturing is a relatively close number 2, followed by agriculture, buildings and energy.

On a country-by-country basis, China has the potential to achieve the greatest reductions, mainly through smart manufacturing, logistics, building and agriculture. Reductions in the U.S. could be nearly as large, with the biggest cuts coming from smart manufacturing and buildings and the smart grid.

India and Brazil also have the potential to achieve impressive reductions, followed by Germany, Canada and the UK.

An ICT showcase
Microsoft’s own corporate campus is a showcase of what’s possible. Buildings on the state-of-the-art campus are connected to a brain in an operations center that monitors and processes data in real-time.

Dashboards show how all the buildings are performing at any given moment in time. Air conditioners, heaters, fans and lights are all watched closely. The moment an issue is discovered, crews can be dispatched to fix it.

Microsoft sees its campus as a small smart city and says its efforts have saved it millions of dollars. Now that the technology is proven and shown to have a strong potential to curb carbon emissions, cities are smart to jump on it too.

More stories …
Better city planning can curb carbon emissions
New standard aims to help cities develop climate action plans, attract financing
Electric highway could link key California ports, reduce emissions