Ethical Performance
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Move to cloud computing promises major CO2 cuts

November 2012

China’s bourgeoning industrial and commercial sector could cut CO2 emissions by 1.9m tonnes a year – the equivalent of removing 700,000 vehicles from China’s roads – by switching to cloud computing, says a new report.

The switch would also generate nationwide savings on energy bills of up to 900m yuan ($144m, £89m, €110m).

And the international team which produced the report claims cloud computing could significantly reduce global CO2 emissions and energy costs – and, in the process, stimulate employment and cut pollution.

An international team has been studying the benefits of cloud computing, whereby all data and functions are stored in a central point instead of hard drives on individual computers.

The team is led by the Think, Play, Do Group, an Imperial College London spin-off, with representatives from Microsoft and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), an international information and communication technology (ICT) partnership committed to achieving ESG improvements.

The projections for China are contained in a preliminary report, The Enabling Technologies of a Low-Carbon Economy: A focus on cloud computing, published last month. The figures are based on the assumption that 80% of Chinese organisations would abandon their onsite servers in favour of cloud computing. Around 65% of the calculated savings would be made by smaller businesses.

GeSI chairman Luis Neves said: “GeSI has taken a strong commitment to demonstrate the enabling potential of cloud computing in how it can tackle the difficult issue of climate change and boost economies.

“This GeSI-supported study on the carbon abatement potential of cloud computing offers the first truly academically-rigorous and industrially-relevant study of its kind, and makes a fine contribution to the growing body of evidence showing that ICT is a key enabler of the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

In China, however, energy-intensive work patterns and lifestyles must change if modern technology systems are to bring about a high-efficiency low-carbon society, said Tang Min, deputy secretary-general of the China Development Research Foundation.

The report observes that China needs a more precise policy if its commitment to minimise emissions is to work. Some government action is vital, says Tang Min. Policy innovations, incentives for companies and active participation by consumers would be required.

However, Neves believes the proposed technology changes are ‘only the tip of the iceberg’. He points out that the Smart 2020 study, GeSI’s 2008 report, predicted that the technologies could cut CO2 emissions by 15% globally by 2020, saving up to €600bn ($787bn, £487bn) and creating 15 million green jobs in the process.

The new study is also examining the potential of cloud computing in Canada, Brazil, Indonesia and seven European countries. A detailed report is due next year.

Think Play Do Group | Asia | Technology


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