The government is launching a "Green Shift" taskforce to move people away from PCs and towards "dumb terminals" - machines with no internal processors of their own that can be linked by broadband to a network of green datacentres.
If implemented, the move would cut Microsoft's Windows Vista and Office sales drastically.
Under the proposals, small business and home users will access office applications and email and browse the Internet via a green PC service based on these datacentres. The home devices will use 98% less energy than standard PCs and be built with 75% fewer resources. A pilot service is expected in early 2007 with full rollout in late 2009.
Local government minister Phil Woolas said: "Cyber-warming is a massive issue and that is why we have taken decisive action with the appointment of the taskforce. The new taskforce is the first of its kind in the world and is a sign of how serious the UK is about tackling this issue.
"Innovative proposals like the green PC service are essential if we are to tackle climate change. Only if all of our communities are engaged in action to tackle climate change will we be successful."
It has been calculated that PCs might contribute around 6% of the UK's CO2 emissions. The government announcement says IT equipment is thought to generate 35m tonnes of harmful CO2 gas each year, supposedly equivalent to airline industry emissions in the UK.
The green datacentres will be built and operated according to low carbon-emission principles, using energy from non-fossil fuel sources for example.
Manchester city council will lead the task force. Council leader Richard Leese said: "The green PC service is part of a package of proposals that has the potential to make a fundamental contribution in meeting the challenge of climate change. Critical to our approach is that sustainability and inclusion go hand in hand. It's no use developing solutions that most people cannot afford."
But neither the Department of Communities and Local Government nor Manchester city council could cast any more light on the Green Shift taskforce, whose membership is not known.
No information was available on the number or size of the green datacentres, the components of the dumb terminal machinesor how users of the service would store their information in the datacentres.
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