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World first as Government computers go green
The British Government today became the first in the world to announce plans to slash the carbon footprint of its computer systems.
Information and communication technology (ICT) is responsible for up to 20 per cent of carbon emissions generated by Government offices - around 460,000 tonnes a year. Under the plan announced today by Cabinet Office Minister Tom Watson the Government aims to make energy consumption of ICT carbon neutral within four years.
Departments will be asked to take 18 key steps. They include:
Automatically switching off desktop computers outside working hours. 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 CO2 per year - equivalent to taking 40,000 cars off the road.
Reusing as much computer equipment as possible. Most of the energy used in the lifetime of a PC is consumed during manufacture. Extending its use or re-using it elsewhere will save both energy and money.
Auditing our data centres and server use to make sure they are running at maximum efficiency. A server that is switched on but idle still uses up to 70 per cent of the power it consumers when fully operational.
Cabinet Office Minister Tom 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.
"That's why I'm so proud that we are the first Government anywhere in the world to formally set out exactly what we're going to do to make our ICT systems carbon neutral within four years. We won't achieve this just by offsetting but by making serious changes to the way we do business.
"But it's not just about the Government. I hope that 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. Lots of small actions make a big impact. Between us we can make a real difference in the fight against climate change."
Andrew Lee, Chief Executive of the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC), said:
"This is a welcome move and a radical target. As the SDC reported earlier this year, government departments have a long way to go on reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions, and tackling IT will be crucial to this effort. We look forward to seeing departments build on these first steps with sustained and decisive action.
"The Cabinet Office has already demonstrated how simple changes can deliver huge carbon savings, and we hope this initiative will go much further, taking a fundamental look at how IT is designed and configured for the future."
John Higgins, Director General of computer industry trade body Intellect, said:
"I welcome today's announcement of the Government's green IT guidelines. The hi-tech sector around the world has demonstrated that it can make its own products more energy-efficient and use technology to generate wider carbon savings.
"Intellect's Public Sector Council agreed yesterday to form a dedicated task group to focus on the issue and help make today's ambitions for greening government IT a reality."
Notes to editors
1) The target set today applies to Central Government departments and will see energy consumption of ICT carbon neutral by 2012. Energy consumption will be reduced as much as possible and what is left will be offset. By 2020 Central Government ICT will be carbon neutral throughout its entire lifetime, including manufacture and disposal.
2) The guidelines in the strategy will be adopted by the Cabinet Office immediately; other departments will be asked to base their environmental action plans around these rules and will be expected to report on their implementation in their submissions to the Transformational Government Annual Report.
3) The strategy will be unveiled at the Science of Survival climate change exhibition at London's Science Museum. Doors open at 8.30am, with the event starting at 9am. If you want to attend please contact Alex Marklew on 020 7276 0436.
4) Copies of the full strategy and Tom Watson's speech will be available for download from http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk by midday on Thursday 17 July.
For further details contact:
Cabinet Office Press Office 22 Whitehall LONDON SW1A 2WH