Workshop ICT footprints for ICT4S conference (2016-08-31 – 09-02), Amsterdam

Energy and carbon footprint of the ICT sector yesterday, today and beyond. How to make future projections of the sector impact.

1. Motivation and objectives of the workshop (WS)

We are by now familiar with the serious problem presented by global warming already and it is
crucial for the benefit of future generations and society that we act now to solve the problem and address its root cause and effects – i.e. GHG emissions (mainly from fossil fuel incineration) and changes in land use (mainly deforestation). Each nation, society/industry sector and also companies/organizations need not only to build knowledge of their own negative emissions and impacts and how they can be reduced, but also how other sectors are impacted; both in negative and positive ways (help others reduce their negative emissions/effects).
Are energy and GHGs the only aspects to consider or are there others that also should be considered?
If we take the transportation sector as an example, the direct emissions from all transports (and travel) represent about 15% of all global emissions [4-8]. Uncertain emissions related to aviation are not included but could add about 1% to 3% of the global total [9-12]. The extraction and production of the fossil fuels incinerated by the transport sector should also be included as well as infrastructures required with its need for asphalt, cement and steel etc. On top of that the transport sector itself requires a lot of buildings as well.
Based on this, where do you draw the line for the system boundary?
When other LCA results are combined the problem with double accounting emerges as transports may have already been included. The transport sector may in the end have a total footprint of up to as high as 30% of the global total once everything is included. At the same time the transport sector may also be split up and allocated to other sectors such as for instance ICT.
Following the reasoning about the transportation sector above, any study of the total footprint of the ICT sector has, for example, to include all manufacturing of equipment and also transport of that equipment to all end customers/users.
There are a number of already published studies on the subject, both on national and global level but the majority of the published studies have not covered the full LCA footprint. Neither have they
taken into consideration the huge variation in data maturity that occurs globally.
The main goal of the workshop is to bring people that have experience in this area and discuss the issue of suitable methods and data to use for real time studies as well as future projections. This is considered a highly relevant topic since many present studies seem to exaggerate the future impact of the ICT sector at large.
The organizers of this WS plan also to present a paper where we revisit the published study [3] of the ICT sector in Sweden 2010 and update it to 2015 years data. This will also be submitted as a new paper to the ICT4S 2016 conference.

Workshop organizers:

Ericsson (Jens Malmodin) and TeliaSonera (Dag Lundén), have a long professional experience of the ICT sector as well as research. Earlier publications include studies on the ICT sector in Sweden but also on global level [1-2]. We arranged a WS at ICT4S 2014 in Stockholm where the study of ICT in Sweden in 2010 was presented and this proposal is a follow-up on that workshop.

Expected outcome of the WS

There are a number of important research/methodology questions that have been identified during our studies of ICT in Sweden as well as globally that we also have seen in other studies:

•  How to define ICT?

What should be included? Should TVs be considered as ICT or is it better to also talk about a closely related entertainment and media sector? Other connected devices? Cars, sensors and other connected devices, also known as IoT?

•  How to include the whole life cycle?

The operation stage is usually in focus but we shouldn’t forget about the production stage and use of material resources and the problem with residual waste.

•  What to include and what shouldn’t be included in a LCA?

Life cycle thinking is a good thought but harder to do in practice (as in doing LCA studies), how far should you go if you also include “embodied footprint”?

•  How to cover the full ICT sector?

Network equipment and e.g. whole data centers can be measured but what about all end- user equipment used by billions of people inside and outside their households? How to measure and/or estimate those? Methods, user statistics, user behavior and impact?

•  How to adapt to “Think global, act local” when performing research on Internet?

The “Internet” sees no borders: How to handle when regions/nations are studied? I.e. Google, Facebook and other centralized server parks used cross border.

•  How to adapt to Mores law?

Due to the fast development of ICT, Data on network impacts ages fast. How reliable are older data and studies, e.g. use of older LCA results for new product studies?

•  Future projections of ICT development, how to think?

In relation to the point above, future projections is especially challenging for the ICT sector that has developed so fast and continue to do. But studies are still needed, so how to perform them most effectively? This is of special interest for the WS as it has been common to estimate the ICT sector will grow more exponentially-like in the future.

•  ICT, is it just energy and GHG from a LCA perspective?

Finally, we also would like to discuss the possibility and usability to study other impacts from the ICT sector such as material and water usage, toxicity potential.
Our aim is to discuss these questions in the WS and encourage all presenters and participants to reflect upon one or several of above stated questions.
The intention is not to set any standard but more to openly discuss these issues and how to handle practical questions when performing large macro-level studies, especially if research resources are limited.

2. Workshop format and needed services

•  For the first part of the WS we plan to have presentations by the organizers and by WS

participants (some will be invited but we also plan to have a few slots open)

•  The second part is planned to be discussions in smaller groups related to the questions listed under objectives (to be further elaborated). There will also be a final wrap up section to conclude and exchange the outcome from each group.

Physical requirements:

•  A large room suitable for the full audience with projector. We don’t foresee any online participation or presentations since we don’t think it’s good to have it due to the WS format we propose.

•  Several smaller rooms or spaces suitable for work group discussions are likely needed.

3. Target audience

•  Participants with a background from macro-level ICT studies, studies of individual ICT

networks and/or whole ICT sector in a region/nation are most welcome.

•  The suitable number of persons to attend is between 10 -30. If more people are interested it might be a problem to organize group discussions. But as far as possible we want to be open for anybody to participation.

•  The WS is intended to be open for all conference participants

•  A mix of participants from industry, academia and other organizations is preferred.

4. Workshop contributions and evaluation

•  Authors of already published papers about the energy and carbon footprint of the ICT sector (or parts of it) will be specially invited but others are also more than welcome to make proposals.

•  In case there is a lot of interest to not only participate but also present, we are flexible with the number of presentations and time allocated. But since the topic is broad and studies in the area usually require larger resources/time, involve lots of data and it’s hard to describe the methodology, we aim to limit each presentation to 15 + 5 min (presentation + questions) to each presenter.

•  The WS is to be documented in a report format and a short summary paper will be distributed and delivered to all WS participants (and the conference participants at large if required) with the results from the discussions related to research/method questions listed under Objectives.

5. Workshop duration

•  We plan for a half-day WS, probably 3 – 4 hours in total.


1. Malmodin, J. et al. (2010) Greenhouse gas emissions and operational electricity use in the ICT
and entertainment & media sectors. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 14 (5), 770–790.
2. Malmodin, J., Bergmark, P. and Lundén, D. (2013) The future carbon footprint of the ICT and
E&M sectors. Paper presented at: ICT for Sustainability (ICT4S), Zurich, 9-12 February.
3. Malmodin, J. et al. (2014) Life cycle assessment of ICT – Carbon footprint and operational electricity use from the operator, national and subscriber perspective in Sweden. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 18 (6), 829-845.
4. IPCC, “Climate change 2014: Synthesis report. Summary for policymakers”. Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) [Core Writing Team editor, Pachauri, P.K and Meyer, L.]. IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland, 2014, 39 pp.
5. T. Herzog, “World greenhouse gas emissions in 2000”, World Resource Institute (WRI), 2005, Available on line at
6. World Resource Institute , “World greenhouse gas emissions in 2005”, Available at
7. World Resource Institute , CAIT 2.0 WRI’s Climate data explorer available through:, Tool available at: GHG Emissions?indicator=Total GHG Emissions Excluding LUCF&indicator=Total GHG Emissions Including UCF&year=2010&chartType=geo
8. European Commission Joint research Center, EDGAR – emission database for global atmospheric research, version 4.0, available at
9. Fuglestvedt J, Berntsen T, Myhre G, Rypdal K, Bieltvedt Skeie R (2008). Climate forcing from
the transport sectors. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 105, no. 2, pp. 454-458.
10. J. Penner et al. (1999). Aviation and the Global Atmosphere, UN IPCC and Cambridge
University Press.
11. Sausen et al. (2005), Aviation Radiative Forcing in 2000: An Update of IPCC (1999), Sausen, R., Isaksen, I., Grewe, V., Lee, D.S., Myhre, G., Schumann, U., Stordal, F. and Zerefos, C., June
12. Åkerman, Jonas (2008). Klimatpåverkan från utrikes resor. TRITA-INFRA-FMS 2008:7. KTH Royal Institute of Technology. (In Swedish, title is “Climate impact from foreign travel”).