ICTs and Climate Change Mitigation in Emerging Economies

Author and Institution: 
Helen Roeth, AIT, Hong Kong
Leena Wokeck, AIT, Hong Kong

This paper discusses needs and opportunities for ICT-enabled climate change mitigation in emerging economies. It was written against the backdrop of challenges to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally, increases of
emissions in rapidly growing emerging economies, and the need for technological 'leapfrogging' to low-carbon development trajectories. It demonstrates how ICT-enabled climate change mitigation could help pave the way for low-carbon development pathways in the world's developing countries.

Section 1 outlines the challenge of climate change mitigation in emerging economies which is compounded by the need for sustained economic growth and the alleviation of widespread poverty on the one hand and the imperative to reduce GHG emissions on the other. There is an urgent need for emerging economies to make the transition to a low-carbon development pathway whereby economic growth is decoupled from an increase in GHG emissions. Section 2 describes the critical role that ICTs can play in mitigating climate change in these economies and lists some key opportunity areas. Each country faces its own set of opportunities in the context of national development objectives and constraints. But a number of main sectors with significant ICT-enabled carbon reduction opportunities can be identified across all economies which include energy generation, urban transportation and buildings, manufacturing and international trade.

While the opportunities for ICT-enabled carbon reductions in emerging economies are compelling, major barriers to widespread commercial deployment of these solutions remain. Such barriers, discussed in section 3, include the lack of awareness of technological developments, and the limited or uncertain suitability of these technologies. In many emerging economies there is no favourable regulatory and political environment incentivising necessary investments and  research. Small and medium-sized enterprises, the main users of low-carbon technologies in these countries, also face limited access to capital and limited capacity and skills to adopt low-carbon technologies.

In conclusion, section 4 outlines key recommendations for governments in emerging economies and large businesses leading on low-carbon technologies. The support of both stakeholders will be crucial to enable a transition to low-carbon development. Governments will need to create an enabling policy and market environment to encourage necessary investments and research. Big businesses will need to make technology available to small and medium-sized enterprises in emerging economies, and to help build innovation capacity in these countries.