A Methodology for Assessing the Environmental Effects Induced by ICT Services: Part I: Single Services

Information and communication technologies (ICT) are increasingly seen as key enablers for climate change mitigation measures. They can make existing products and activities more efficient or substitute them altogether. Consequently, different initiatives have started to estimate the environmental effects of ICT services. Such assessments, however, lack scientific rigor and often rely on crude assumptions and methods, leading to inaccurate or even misleading results. The few methodological attempts that exist do not address several crucial aspects, and are thus insufficient to foster good assessment practice. Starting from such a high-level standard from the European Telecommunication Standardisation Institute (ETSI) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), this article identifies the shortcomings of existing methodologies and proposes solutions. It addresses several aspects for the assessment of single ICT services: the goal and scope definition (analyzing differences between ICT substitution and optimization, the time perspective of the assessment, the challenge of a hypothetical baseline for the situation without the ICT solution, and the differences between modelling and case studies) as well as the often-ignored influence of rebound effects and the difficult extrapolation from case studies to larger populations.

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