Toward sustainable and non-exploitative resource management

Partnering with ECOS on a Green Screen Catalyst-funded research project
June 4, 2024

Together with the Environmental Coalition on Standards, we will carry out research on the environmental costs of Europe’s data centers and the need to reduce energy consumption in the digital economy. This project is funded by the Green Screen Catalyst Fund.

Given the climate crisis and the fact that ICTs contribute significantly to global carbon emissions and electricity consumption, ensuring that ICTs are developed and used responsibly and resource-efficiently is crucial. Despite the urgent need, the European Union lacks a coherent policy to address the energy and, more generally, environmental sustainability issues raised by digital technologies.

The current approach to addressing these issues is fragmented and lacks a comprehensive strategy. For example, software, which drives the energy needs of ICT infrastructure, is largely unregulated from an environmental perspective. Similarly, the updated Energy Efficiency Directive includes a requirement to monitor the energy performance of data centers. However, this monitoring requirement does not require efforts to reduce energy consumption and ensure more sustainable use. In particular, the energy performance of data centers is affected by many factors, such as the type of software applications and the efficiency of the software code. As a result, initiatives to improve data center energy efficiency will be ineffective unless they address both the hardware and software layers.

We want the outcomes of our research, which we will share towards the end of the year, to inform and drive some of these lacking policy efforts. Our project is designed to help bring the issue of the sustainability of information technology, and in particular data centers, to the agenda of all stakeholders to enact policy change. In the meantime, we also wish to create a space for NGOs to collaborate, share narratives, and combine their efforts to tackle the interdependency between climate justice and digital rights.

Digital information and communication technologies (ICTs) governance must prioritize the public interest rather than undermine it. This requires that ICTs be open, interoperable, and environmentally sustainable. ICTs should also be developed and used responsibly and resource-efficiently. This aligns with the overarching goal of sustainable and non-exploitative resource management, a key component of the Digital Commons.

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