Government aims to offset 100% of ICT carbon emissions by 2012

The government has announced plans to slash the carbon footprint of its computer systems.

Information and communications technology (ICT) is responsible for up to 20% of carbon emissions generated by government offices – about 460,000 tonnes a year. Under the plan announced by Cabinet Office minister Tom Watson, the government aims to make ICT energy consumption carbon neutral within four years.

Departments will be asked to take 18 key steps, including:

Switching off computers outside working hours – the government estimates that turning off every desktop PC in central government for the 16 hours that fall outside the standard working day could save up to 117,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, which equates to taking 40,000 cars off the road

Extending its use or re-using ICT elsewhere to save both energy and money

Auditing data centres and server use to make sure they are running at maximum efficiency.

Watson said: “Worldwide, computers are responsible for the same quantity of carbon emissions as the airline industry. It is a serious problem that requires a serious solution.

“But it’s not just about the government. I hope the steps we’re announcing today – including simple ideas such as making sure everything is turned off when not in use, defaulting to double-sided printing and reusing old equipment for as long as possible – will also be picked up by private companies and individuals.”

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