IGF 2020 WS #100 Best environmental practices across the Internet value-chain

Time
Monday, 16th November, 2020 (08:30 UTC) - Monday, 16th November, 2020 (10:00 UTC)
Room
Room 1
About this Session
The session aims to analyze concrete illustrations of best practices developed in order to increase the environmental efficiency of each block of the internet value-chain (networks, data centers, devices, services, etc.). We will deal with such best practices from the viewpoint of both energy consumption and life cycles.
Thematic Track

Organizer 1: Jean Cattan, Arcep
Organizer 2: Anaïs Aubert,
Organizer 3: Antoine Samba, Arcep

Speaker 1: Ruiqi Ye, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 2: Gauthier Roussilhe, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Agnieszka Skorupinska, Private Sector, Eastern European Group

Additional Speakers

A representative from the ITU will intervene to share a global organisation viewpoint. Paolo Gemma is Chairman of Working Party 3 “ICT and Climate Change” at the ITU.

https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-T/Workshops-and-Seminars/ethernet/201307/Pages/GEMMAPaolo.aspx

Moderator
Online Moderator

Antoine Samba, Government, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Rapporteur

Jean Cattan, Government, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Format

Panel - Auditorium - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

1. What are the best practices that can be implemented by companies to reduce the energy consumption of the networks and services they provide? 2. What can users do to reduce their energy consumption from networks without affecting their access to information and cultural content? 3. What role for public authorities in adopting good practices from companies and users? 4. Can we hope for a low consumption internet ? Do we have to opt for low tech solutions? 5. If we look at current trends, is the future of networks energy-consuming or increasingly sober? Are there standards in this area and if so which ones? 6. As users, what is the most relevant data to establish the energy impact of our uses? Is this data accessible ? 7. Should we give public access to all the data relating to the energy consumption of networks and services related to the Internet?

The development of internet networks is built on a relative balance between the innovations that the sector is able to offer and the needs expressed on the demand-side. On the one hand, telecommunications technologies and networks are developed by responding to current and anticipated digital uses. On the other hand, improving the performance of networks is often a source of new efficiencies (particularly energy). But it also allows the development of new uses, which accelerate the need for new technologies and the use of more resources. The development of internet networks and the equipment that makes them up is therefore constantly questioned between the necessity to respond to existing uses, encouraging the emergence of new services, providing an alternative to physical transportation, being a source of new pollution, and at the origin of massive consumption of scarce resources, etc. The covid crisis has reinforced the essential character of efficient internet networks. The lockdowns around the globe have confirmed the need to ensure their development as a common good. While there is a real issue of social equality, networks have become essential, necessary for exchanges between people, for education, for informing the population and for the continuity of our economies. At the same time, this period also contributed to making everyone more aware of their digital needs and uses and their impact. This period should also provide the impetus and the keys to respond to a long-term concern aimed at protecting the environment and limiting the environmental impact of the networks. Certain approaches aiming, for example, at reducing the bandwidth used by content providers, who are heavy consumers of it, could have an interest in the long term. Communications inviting people to adopt good practices in a period of extensive use of networks goes along the same logic. In this particular context, a balanced position cannot seek to overwhelm or absolve the internet in this search for environmental efficiency, both from a point of view of its consumption of energy and resources and in a global life cycle analysis. It may on the other hand seek to support more efficiency. The question therefore arise: what are the best practices that can be put forward to accelerate the shift to electronic communications more environmentally friendly on the whole value chain (from networks to users)?

SDGs

GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
GOAL 12: Responsible Production and Consumption
GOAL 13: Climate Action

Description:

The session aims to analyze concrete illustrations of best practices developed in order to increase the environmental efficiency of each block of the internet value-chain (networks, data centers, devices, services, etc.). We will deal with such best practices from the viewpoint of both energy consumption and life cycles.

Expected Outcomes

1. A better understanding of the entire value-chain and its environmental impact 2. Production of good practices on each block of the internet value-chain with a critical look at their limits 3. Bring a global comparative perspective on the different practices that can be implemented in each region 4. Contribute to the making of a toolbox for a greener internet to users, companies and public authorities 5. Targeting relevant data and the most relevant ways to publish it.

Discussion Facilitation: The session will be moderated by a regulator representative. Per se, regulators are used to ensure a balanced representation of views and opinions. They can easily and fairly plan and anticipate interventions to come. The moderator will foster discussion between participants and the audience by identifying issues that need to be clarified, nuanced and diverging positions that generate debates. An online pad will gather materials published by each participant. It may also be completed online by interested persons. Online Participation: The moderator will be taking questions from social media to contribute to the discussions and will share the session ahead of time to encourage remote participants to bring up issues to be discussed. A discussion pad will be used during the session to ensure the liveliness of the debate and promote interaction with the room and remote participants. This service may be accessed and used online by interested persons following the debate remotely or not.

Relevance to Internet Governance: The environmental impact of digital networks and services is a key issue well identified by the IGF. As the whole value chain of the Internet is impacted, there is a clear need for a multi-stakeholder approach on best practices to be implemented. In order to be fully effective, those shall emanate from all parties and be collectively built.

Relevance to Theme: Given the importance of the environmental impact of the digital sectors, several pitfalls are to be avoided, including catastrophist positions or greenwashing practices. As a regulator, Arcep will be able to put forward positive and concrete solutions to move ahead, while having a balanced view of the initiatives that will be introduced.

Online Participation

 

Usage of IGF Official Tool. Additional Tools proposed: A discussion pad on Framapad will be used during the session to ensure the liveliness of the debate and promote interaction with the room and remote participants. This service may be accessed and used online by interested persons following the debate remotely or not.

 

1. Key Policy Questions and related issues
What is the relevant level of intervention when it comes to the environmental impact of the digital sector?
What have been done so far to limit the environmental impact of the digital sector on the environment and what remains to be done?
Which economic model should be followed to conciliate technology and environmental responsibility?
2. Summary of Issues Discussed

Everyone agreed that is is important to act at the global level to impulse a common dynamic and propose shared solutions, standards, tools and initiatives. However, every action should be adapted to the local level, depending on local specifities and issues.

Moreover, the speakers underlined the need for cooperation between institutions and relevant stakeholder to tackled the issue. Data collection, transparency and education are essentials elements of the solution.

Everyone is of the opinion that much remains to be done and that we must collectively ask ourselves what model to follow to meet our climate commitments.

Some speakers insisted on the need to raise consumer awareness, while others preferred not to give so much responsibility to consumers but rather to industry and to the business model of certain content providers in particular, based on abundance, in opposition to what action for the environment requires.  

3. Key Takeaways

The interventions illustrated that a lot of work has been done but there is still much work left.

Greenpeace noted that “China’s recent pledge to become carbon neutral by 2060 is sending a strong signal to the world and to home. It’s time for IT giants such as Alibaba, Tencent, and GDS to take the cue, clean up their energy supply, and commit to 100% renewable energy,”  Also, Vodafone underlined how a Gigabit Europe can be green. Telco industry committed to meet growing data demand in a way that protects the planet: by using energy efficiently and sourcing it from renewable generation. Vodafone markets in Europe will power its network by 100% renewable electricity no later than July 2021.

These are important  concrete examples of actions undertaken in the field. However,  a common understanding among panellists is the need of more collaboration, at institutional and governmental level, at business level, with companies sharing their experiences as much as possible at the global level, but also at the users’ level.  Education and Transparency have also been pointed out as essential factors in enabling a low-carbon future: more data, researches and studies are needed in order to have a better knowledge of what can be done and to achieve the 2030 UN agenda objectives.

6. Final Speakers

Moderator : Anaïs Aubert,
Speaker 1: Ruiqi Ye, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Speaker 2: Gauthier Roussilhe, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Speaker 3: Agnieszka Skorupinska, Private Sector, Eastern European Group

Speaker 4 : Paolo Gemma, Chairman of Working Party 3 “ICT and Climate Change” at the ITU.

7. Reflection to Gender Issues

The gender issues were not part of the discussion during the session. However, it should be noted that the panel, moderated by a woman, was composed of three woman and two men.