UK 'needs new laws' to cut IT's carbon footprint

The UK government should introduce more laws to help IT vendors and enterprises improve energy efficiency, said environmental charity Global Action Plan.

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The British government should introduce new laws to help IT vendors and enterprises improve energy efficiency, environmental charity Global Action Plan has warned.

"A paradigm shift is required to provide the necessary framework to make 'Green IT' solutions common practice," said the practical environmental charity as it launched an in-depth report today at Westminster.

The report, 'An Inefficient Truth', based on a poll of Computerworld UK readers, says: "The carbon footprint of ICT must be addressed by all concerned parties – government, ICT professionals, ICT vendors and leaders of UK organisations."

"Profound and rapid change" is required to achieve the reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that scientists tell us are necessary to avoid runaway climate change, the charity said.

The charity also warned that the government must be careful not to enforce laws that will "unnecessarily increase the data storage burden".

Privacy and data security regulations introduced in recent years – including the Markets in Financial Instrument Directive (MiFID), Sarbanes Oxley, SEPA, and the UK Companies Act – have significantly increased storage requirements for most enterprises. About 37% of companies store data indefinitely due to government policy, the report claimed. The follow-on effect of this is heavier IT use, which impacts the environment, according to the report.

Trewin Restorick, director of Global Action Plan, called on government to think about new policy in a more coherent fashion and consider the environmental impact. "The government is asking organisations to do two different things. Firstly, store more data. And secondly cut carbon emissions by 60% by 2050.

“Those two objectives are incompatible. While they are considering introducing national ID cards, which would require increased data storage, they should do a carbon assessment of the impact of such a policy, but they are not even thinking about that at the moment."

Organisations are struggling with a lack of energy supply and many are forced to move datacentres overseas to address energy supply issues in the UK, said Global Action Plan, which noted that these energy demands must be met by lower carbon energy supplies.

"Central government must create a more robust response to the energy supply and security challenges facing the UK," the report stated.

The charity commended the Government Climate Change Bill, which aims for a 60% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050, and the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE), which sets guidelines on the disposal of computers and electronic equipment.

However, "there remains much that could be done" to reduce the environmental impact of IT.

Read our full coverage of the Global Action Plan event at the House of Commons here

Now read the executive summary of Global Action Plan's reportAn inefficient truth

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