On World Standards Day, let’s renew our resolve to protect the planet with standards

Today, ITU, together with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) celebrate World Standards Day 2020, this year dedicated to international standards’ contribution to environmental sustainability. 

Under the theme ‘Protecting the Planet with Standards’, today ITU, ISO and IEC pay tribute to the experts worldwide who contribute to the development of international standards. 

This year’s theme demands global action. We reinforce that action by developing international standards.

Standards development is a fundamental pillar of ITU’s mission as the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs). 

ITU standardization is driven by contributions from ITU members and consequent decisions are made by consensus. The ITU standardization process ensures that all voices are heard, that standards efforts do not favour particular commercial interests, and that resulting standards have the consensus-derived support of the diverse, globally representative ITU membership.

International standards provide the technical foundations of the global ICT ecosystem.

They help us to share in the ICT advances changing our world, advances that are key to addressing humanity’s most pressing challenges and accelerating progress towards all 17 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Tackling e-waste through standards

It is fitting that today is also International E-waste Day, which promotes the proper management of e-waste to enable reuse and recycling worldwide. 

ITU is among the leading organizations that actively contribute to global efforts for environmental protection and reducing e-waste, not only by developing international standards, but also through tracking global e-waste data and developing e-waste policy guidance. 

ITU’s commitment to reducing e-waste is reflected in our Connect 2030 Agenda, where ITU Member States set a target to increase the global e-waste recycling rate to 30 per cent and raise the number of countries with an e-waste legislation to 50 per cent by 2023. 

I am proud to see a stronger emphasis on building circular economy into the ICT industry as a key element of the industry’s evolution. Not only will this help the industry to achieve new cost efficiencies, it will also well improve the health of people and the environment.

ITU standards provide authoritative guidance on the development of frameworks to achieve sustainable e-waste management.

One of the latest ITU standards in this domain provides guidance and certification schemes for e-waste recyclers, guidance that also describes approaches to integrate informal recycling sector activities into the formal sector. Another addresses ‘extended producer responsibility’ in the ICT industry: the concept of integrating environmental sustainability into core business activities.

Standardization: An efficiency opportunity

As ICTs gain efficiency, their ability to support efficiency gains in other industry sectors has become a major business opportunity. In fact, there is a great opportunity for all sectors to grow in efficiency and sustainability with the help of ICTs.

ITU standards guide environmentally sustainable approaches to ICT industry activities and provide assessment methodologies to gauge progress in this regard. These ITU-standardized methodologies enable the assessment of ICTs’ environmental impacts, as well as assessments of ICTs’ contribution to environmental efficiency in other sectors. 

The latest ITU standards for energy efficiency provide guidance for energy-efficient smart buildings, sustainable power feeding solutions for IMT-2020/5G networks, energy-efficient datacentres capitalizing on big data and artificial intelligence, and smart energy solutions for datacentres. 

ITU is also engaged in exploratory studies of environmental efficiency in the age of artificial intelligence, increasing automation and smart manufacturing. These ‘pre-standardization’ studies aim to establish a basis for ITU standards to describe sustainable approaches the adoption of emerging technologies. 

These exploratory studies are underway in an open-to-all Focus Group reporting to ITU’s standardization expert group for ‘environment and circular economy’: ITU-T Study Group 5. 

Radiocommunication standards for planetary protection 

Given the mounting threat of climate change, weather and climate predictions need to start from the best possible estimate of the current state of the planet. Meteorologists need real-time, accurate global observations not only of what is happening in the Earth’s atmosphere, but also in its oceans and forests. And for this, they rely on space sensing, as we highlighted during World Space Week. Satellite data is an indispensable input for weather prediction models and forecast systems used to produce safety warnings and other crucial information in support of public and private decision-making.

Radiocommunication systems are therefore fundamental to helping countries mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. The ubiquity and resilience of radiocommunication systems make them critical to strengthening resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries. Effective and prudent management of allocated frequency bands is therefore paramount to maintaining and enhancing the quality and accuracy of weather and weather-related predictions.

The ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) also plays a central role in developing international standards for radio-based telecommunications systems, including terrestrial and space systems, as well as best practices on national spectrum management activities. These international technical standards are developed within the six Study Groups of ITU-R, where experts from government, industry, academia and regional and international organizations collaborate in establishing the characteristics of the systems and services that will define tomorrow’s wireless landscape.

Seeking sustainability standards success together

ITU continues to engage with all ICT stakeholders to incorporate common goals and values towards sustainability into its standardization work.

ITU will continue to support global efforts in standardization through our diverse membership of 193 Member States and over 900 companies, universities, international and regional organizations, as well as many fruitful partnerships.

International standards capture innovation to enable global access to its benefits. They enable ICTs to interconnect and interoperate, and they create efficiencies and economies of scale that ultimately result in lower costs to producers and lower prices to consumers. 

Standards support international trade by providing a basis for global markets – standards can help climate actions to achieve impact on a global scale 

10 years remain to achieve the SDGs. We have no time to lose in ensuring that ICTs fulfill their promise to enhance environmental sustainability across our economies. 

I call upon ITU Member States, industry members, and academia, together with UN sister agencies, partners and all stakeholders, to support ITU in “protecting the planet with standards” so that all may prosper and benefit.

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