Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are of particular importance for the climate footprint of UN offices, both in terms of the direct impact from electricity use for computers and servers (operation and cooling), and due to scope for reducing travel through increased use of e-communication tools.
Regarding the direct climate footprint of computers and servers, most UN organizations are upgrading computers, in so far as new hardware includes energy saving features as a standard, and where desktops are often replaced with considerably more energy efficient laptops. Server rooms, which are on average responsible for about 10 % of the total energy consumption in offices, are in some cases, such as the UN Secretariat in New York, downsized so that more virtual servers run on fewer physical machines, which has a proportional impact on the energy consumption and costs for both energy and hardware.
While use of e-mail, phone- and video-conferencing has been commonplace throughout UN for many years, 29 UN organizations are now developing access to more modern e-communication tools such as on-line conferencing, personalized PC-based video links, internet phone conferencing and on-line class rooms. Several organizations require staff to consider conducting meetings and missions through e-communication, before travel is approved. In many organizations all new computers are supplied with headsets and webcams to enable voiceover- IP and personal video conferencing applications.
There is a clear trend for UN organizations to take advantage of the many opportunities for more efficient ICT support, both to reduce the direct climate footprint of ICT equipment and support reduced emissions from other activities, in particular meetings, travel and communication.
UNECE has also implemented a pilot project, entitled ‘Facilitating Electronic Public Participation and Mitigating Climate Change: Proposed Feasibility Study of Teleconferencing and Webcasting in Selected Aarhus Convention Meetings’. This will reduce travel to meetings, thereby contributing to a reduction of carbon emissions caused by UNECE activities. At the same time, an increase in web-based meeting techniques also offers greater potential for public participation in such meetings, if appropriate.
The UN ICT Network has established a working group to review the potential for improving access by all UN staff to high quality e-communication tools.