The impact of global warming on the world’s climate to date is relatively small compared with what can be expected in the future, even if the increase in greenhouse gas emissions is stabilized. Furthermore, the results are likely to be highly uneven in their distribution, with low-lying coastal areas (such as small island developing States, the Bangladesh delta and the Netherlands) at risk because of rising sea levels; sub-Saharan Africa at risk due to desertification; a growing number of environmental refugees; and increased pressure on sources of fresh water and on vulnerable ecosystems such as coral reefs, tundra and coastal wetlands.
In this context, ICTs including remote sensing and geographic information systems have expanded the possibilities for risk assessment of multiple hazards and enabled the development of various scenarios and contingency plans. Risk analysis includes: risk maps, hazard maps, and scenario maps. Risk analysis is therefore a key component in developing a disaster risk reduction strategy by establishing the links between exposure to hazards, level of vulnerabilities and the ability to cope.
As part of its commitment to contribute to the fight against climate change, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is a partner of the Nairobi Framework Programme.
The ITU is the specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for information and communications technologies (ICTs), comprising 192 governments and over 700 private companies.
As a unique intergovernmental organization with participation from the private sector, ITU is a major facilitator of initiatives to speed-up reductions in ICT-related GHG emissions and promotion of energy efficiency and is well placed to help countries implement the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol through the use of ICTs. In addition, ITU is engaging the public and private sectors through the development of new global ICT standards on adaptation.
ITU Resolution 182 “The role of Telecommunications/Information and Communication Technologies on Climate Change and the Protection of the Environment” (Guadalajara, October 2010) identifies the need to assist developing countries to use ICTs to tackle climate change and committed ITU to work with other stakeholders to develop tools to support this aim.
To move forward the climate change agenda and help countries to adapt to the effects of climate change through the use of ICTs, ITU has organized several events and symposia on ‘ICTs and the Environment & Climate Change’. The Sixth Symposium on “ICTs, the Environment and Climate Change ” will be held in Accra, Ghana, on 7-8 July 2011 and the ITU Green Standards Week will be held in Rome from 5 to 9 September 2011.
ITU’s activities on adaptation include:
• providing assistance to governments to build appropriate institutions for disaster risk reduction;
• developing international standards;
• providing assistance to countries in incorporating resilient features in telecommunications infrastructure;
• helping countries to develop policy and legal frameworks by providing inputs into policy formulation, and legislative and regulatory drafting for countries;
• helping countries with regard to their vulnerability by providing assistance in reducing and eliminating vulnerabilities in telecommunications infrastructure;
• assisting Member States in designing and incorporating telecommunications/ICT into national adaptation plans;
• implementing early warning systems in countries where there is a high incidence of disasters;
• designing national emergency telecommunications plans that include Standard Operating Procedures that are now in use in many countries;
• producing guidelines, handbooks, toolkits and other publications that are in use by countries for disaster risk reduction.
As a core function of its work with developing countries, ITU assists its Member States in the use of ICTs to adapt to climate change. ICTs can be effective in enabling countries to better adapt to climate change. Adaptation involves taking action to tolerate the effects of climate change on a local or country level.
Within ITU-T Study Group 5 on ‘Environment and Climate Change’ two new Questions (work areas) have been created with the aim of developing recommendations and guidelines on adaptation to climate change.
• “How can ICTs be used to enable countries to adapt to climate change?”
• “How can a low cost sustainable telecommunication infrastructure be set up in rural areas of developing countries?”.
Generally complex emergencies that need external intervention occur in resource-poor countries where data and communication facilities are scarce. Decision-making is often delayed due to lack of information. The effectiveness of humanitarian interventions and the ability to protect livelihoods from the impacts of hazards depends on the timeliness and appropriateness of responses. A prominent example of this area of activities is the use of ICTs to implement early warning systems for natural disasters and the use of communications for disaster relief operations.