Instead of arguing over the feasibility of meeting Kyoto Accord deadlines, governments and private sector should be paying more attention to how IT can help them achieve its targets, says ITAC’s president.

The Information Technology Association

of Canada released a position paper Wednesday on climate change and the federal government’s Climate Change Plan for Canada.

The Canadian government ratified the accord, which aims to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, on December 16, 2002. The action plan for preventing climate change was negotiated six years earlier at a summit in Kyoto, Japan.

The controversial ratification means a tightening of Canadian emissions laws as well as other environmental regulations. It has both private sector and government critics in an uproar. Arguments have been raging over the timelines set out by the federal government, the feasibility of strengthening environmental controls and the financial impact of it all on the Canadian economy.

ITAC, an industry organization representing 1,300 companies in the Canadian computing and telecommunications industry, argues that an overall ideological shift is needed to make the Kyoto goals attainable.

Innovative approaches which use information and communications technology to reduce pollution should be sought. They will not only make it possible for Canada to honour its obligation, but can also mean the development of products marketable to other countries taking similar steps. It will also be good for our economy, says ITAC president and CEO Gaylen Duncan.

“”Quite honestly, as we develop solutions that are environmentally friendly, we develop products that are exportable. So we give our Canadian companies, or Canadian offices, a head start,”” he says.

The types of solutions that ITAC is suggesting are no-brainers, Duncan says. The paper suggests installing smart traffic management systems. Once deployed, the systems improve traffic flow and reduce emissions by expediting traffic, reducing idling times and the total time of travel.

The paper also points to the environmental benefits of teleconferencing and videoconferencing. It brings up the example of six people travelling 300 km by car to attend a meeting. During that one trip they’ll produce an amount of harmful emissions that’ll take over a million mature trees to clear.

There are countless other examples, Duncan says.

“”Why aren’t we retrofitting all of our buildings to be intelligent? Lights on when the people are there, lights off when they’re not. Air circulation that makes sense,”” he says.

The problem currently, he argues, is a lack of financial incentive to the private sector. Tax credits used as incentive to promote the deployment of technologies with a positive impact on the environment will change the way we think, Duncan says.

That change is coming, Duncan says, but so far it’s been a slow process.

“”I think there is a basic recognition (of technology’s potential), but I don’t think there’ s a fundamental understanding yet,”” he says. “”And that’s what we’re arguing for. Let’s get creative. Let’s get the juices of the brains of the guys who design (IT) systems lose on how do we eliminate more environmentally unfriendly practices.””

Part of the reason there has been little attention paid to how IT can play into achieving Kyoto goals is that both the goals and the industry are new, he says. Not surprisingly, that plays into the potential for new markets for Canadian tech companies.

They won’t have to re-invent the wheel every time, Duncan says, many of the technologies which will end up making a difference exist already and are being used.

“”Are they being deployed to the extent that we think they should be? The answer is no,”” Duncan says.

Work on this paper has uncovered an essential lack of information about new technologies and ways they can positively affect the environment. ITAC hopes to turn that around, Duncan adds. The association plans to approach the federal government with a proposal for a jointly funded study on how IT can help reach Kyoto goals.


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