Working Group on
Climate Change

How can we use ICTs for climate action towards a low-carbon economy?

The Broadband Commission’s Working Group on Climate Change was chaired in 2012 by Mr. Hans Vestberg, CEO of Ericsson. The Working Group was convened to identify how broadband investments could best be leveraged from a climate perspective. The resulting 2012 Report includes an analysis of the contemporary landscape of information communication technology (ICT) enabling, including government leadership, involvement by the private sector and other stakeholders, as well as a road map and recommendations for further action. 

Setting the Stage

Broadband as a Tool for Sustainability

Broadband Boosts Economies and Sustainability Initiatives

The Working Group’s 2012 Report pointed to 2009 data from the World Bank, which indicated that, for high- income countries, a 10 percent rise in broadband penetration adds a 1.21 percent rise in economic growth, and 1.38 percentage for low- and middle- income countries. 

Not only is broadband development economically efficient for all countries, but it also has huge potential to help shift the world towards a low-carbon economy and address the challenge of climate change. In addition to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth and job creation, broadband expansion can deliver vastly enhanced energy efficiency, mitigation, adaption, and real-time monitoring and emergency response. 

Monitoring is Necessary to Ensure Sustainability

Broadband development can enable more sustainable economic practices globally. However, it remains vital to quantify and monitor the environmental load caused by ICTs, including consumption of energy, consumption of natural resources, and generation of waste. As ICTs are employed to reduce climate change, the ICT sector must also work to be as environmentally stable as possible. The environmental load reduction achieved by ICT must outweigh the environmental load caused by ICT in order for practices to be sustainable, as demonstrated in the graphic below: 

Graphic of two scales representing a Model for Environmental Assessment of ICT goods, networks, and services

The Way Forward

Conclusions and Recommendations

A lack of awareness about ICT and broadband’s enabling role is a key challenge going forward. Policies and strategies will need to consider how to influence individual behavior and raise awareness to enhance the uptake of broadband-enabled low-carbon solutions among consumers worldwide. 

With sound leadership, open and competitive markets that recognize broadband as essential infrastructure and encourage the development and scaling up of solutions will deliver the greatest impact.

The Working Group’s 2012 report, The Broadband Bridge: Linking ICT With Climate Action for a Low-Carbon Economyidentified three vital roles that broadband can play in key areas related to climate change, including:

Transformation: helping other sectors of society to reduce GHGs through dematerialization of physical products and systems, for example, substituting travel with collaborative tools or substituting need to produce physical products by delivering e-products and services

Climate Mitigation: reducing the sector’s own emissions, often referred to as Greening ICT, for example, specific efforts to cut emissions of greenhouse gases within the ICT industry itself, such as developing energy lean products and solutions, setting and delivering on tough reduction targets

Climate Adaptation: changes in processes, practices and structures to reduce the vulnerability of natural and human systems to climate change effects. Broadband can provide viable solutions, for example, weather information and disaster alerts.


Following an overview of nine pioneering digital practices and six government case studies, the 2012 Report presented ten thoughtful and informed recommendations for how to spur the kind of change that will result in a bold approach to unleashing broadband’s potential to create a networked, low-carbon society of the future.

Adopt a long-term National Broadband Plan/Strategy based on universal affordability and accessibility, open markets and innovation, and consciously connect this to your climate goals.

Bring convergence to ICT policy formulation so
that it aligns with other policy areas such as energy, health, education and
climate in order to maximize impact.

Ensure regulatory certainty with regards to policy and regulations on climate and broadband to create a framework of investment certainty.

Drive cross-ministry collaboration and integrated decision-making to align climate and digital goals and use government procurement to send the right market signals.

Identify and remove the regulatory and policy barriers currently hindering research and investment in 21st century ICT-based broadband-enabled infrastructure and low carbon solutions.

Encourage uptake of low-carbon solutions and support market change by rewarding or incentivizing desired consumer behaviors. Spur innovation among individuals, companies and sectors.

Fund and facilitate scalable pilots to demonstrate feasibility and effectiveness of broadband as an enabler of low-carbon solutions and build a strong business case to attract private investment.

Cultivate ‘connectivity’ and ‘co-creativity’ across public, private and non-governmental sectors and industries to help develop a collaborative mindset, shared goals, common language and break down silos.

Develop harmonized metrics and measurements and common standards for calculating both ICT’s environmental impacts and the positive contribution it can make to other sectors—from individual products to systems, and from individual households to city or national levels.

Actively disseminate project findings, share best practice and learn from mistakes to identify success factors and facilitate leapfrogging, especially among lesser developed markets. Communicate the opportunities and synergies that can be achieved through an integrated, trans-sector approach to digital development. infrastructure and low carbon solutions.

The Working Group Model

Composition and Activities

The Working Group, was launched in Barcelona, Spain on 16 February 2011.  The group held three meetings via teleconference on 31 March, 30 May and 4 October 2011.