The International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations agency, has set up a new focus group to examine how to measure and reduce the impact of IT and communications systems on the environment.

The ITU said the new group - whose chair is David Faulkner, access network research leader at BT - will focus on two key themes.

Firstly, it will look at how to reduce the damage done by information and communications technology, and then it will look at how ICT can reduce environmental damage caused by businesses in sectors such as energy, transportation and buildings.

It said it was making the move in response to calls from industry, as the number of ICT users worldwide has tripled since the adoption of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which set governments targets for reducing greenhouse gases. UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon last month called on the ITU to increase its work against climate change, and commended it for its work so far.

A key objective of the focus group will be to develop internationally agreed methods of estimating the impact of ICT on climate change. The ITU said technology could help cut global emissions by between 15 to 40 per cent, depending on the methodology used to make these estimates.

Hamadoun Touré, secretary general at the ITU, said he was "very appreciative” of the industry and political encouragement. “ICTs are a contributor to global warming, but more importantly they are the key to monitoring and mitigating its effects," he added.

The new focus group will encourage contribution from the ICT sector as well as other industry sectors, research institutes and other experts, the ITU said. The group has begun work through electronic communication, and will meet in person for the first time in September at the ITU headquarters in Geneva.

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