Since the United Nations General Assembly in December 1987, and its Resolution 42/187, sustainable development has become the aspiration of modern societies. Meanwhile, the development of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), in the 21st century, has contributed remarkably to global energy consumption, although the translation of the data traffic volume to energy use (in particular fossil energy carriers consumption) and greenhouse gas emissions is not straightforward. According to the famous SMART2020 report  the ICT carbon footprint (CO2e1 emissions) was supposed to increase from 0.53 Gt CO2e in 2002 to 1.43 Gt by 2020. However, newer reports, i.e. SMARTer2020  and SMARTer2030  corrected these predictions and showed a stabilized trend in the ICT footprint.
ICT carbon footprint
What we can read from the reports mentioned earlier? Importantly, ICT brings eco-opportunities to many other business sectors. Although the ICT sector’s own emissions are expected to stabilize to 1.25 GtCO2e in 2030, specific ICT opportunities identified in - should lead to emission reductions in ICT –enabled sectors seven times the size of the sector’s own footprint by 2020 , and more than nine times by 2030  of total emissions! (Have a look at the chart below.) Moreover, analyses in  show that ICT has the potential to enable a 20% reduction of global CO2e emissions by 2030, holding them at 2015 levels. On the other hand, the authors of  claim that the hopes set on digitalization reducing energy consumption have not yet been justified and that the energy-increasing effects of digitalization so far have been greater than the energy-reducing effects.
Reduced-energy wireless communication (a.k.a. green communication) has been an ambition of the Fifth Generation (5G) radio . The so-called zero-energy radios are envisioned for future Sixth Generation (6G) systems as their technology enablers . There are some well-known methods for saving energy in information transmission over radio access- and core networks, as well as in information processing/computing.
Contemporary network services involve both communication and computing (C&C) of information across the network, and thus, key performance indicators including energy-efficiency of communication and computing should be handled jointly. The challenges of future massive, yet energy-efficient C&C require a new architectural and algorithmic approach to the network design. In , we discuss the fog network architecture for future IoT services together with some use-cases (computations/tasks offloading, multimedia cashing, vehicle-to-vehicle/infrastructure/anything communication, remote control in robotics and data processing), computational awareness of communication networks, and the opportunities for greening the future C&C.
Note that all reports and forecasts for 10 years horizon show that the ICT business will continuously grow. However, it will also face challenges from climate change. The expectations are that the ICT sector will not only reduce its own carbon footprint but also deliver significant reductions in CO2e emissions to other business sectors. Over 3 trillion US Dollars is likely to be spent on research and development in the ICT sector up to 2030 , indicating huge potential for innovative solutions to the Sustainable Development Goals . Let’s hope for great ideas in green communication area to achieve them!
I would like to encourage readers interested in green communication to have a look at our open-access article published by IEEE Communication Technology News .
Take a look at other posts on our blog related to the current trends and future of radiocommunications:
 Global e-Sustainability Initiative, The Climate Group, “SMART 2020: Enabling the low carbon economy in the information age”, 2008 https://www.theclimategroup.org/sites/default/files/ archive/files/Smart2020Report.pdf
 Global e-Sustainability Initiative, The Boston Consulting Group, “GeSI SMARTer 2020: The Role of ICT in Driving a Sustainable Future”, 2012, https://gesi.org/research/gesi-smarter2020-the-role-of-ict-in-driving-a-sustainable-future
 Global e-Sustainability Initiative and Deloitte, “Digital with Purpose: Delivering a SMARTer2030”, 2019, https://gesi.org/research/gesi-digital-with-purpose-full-report
 S. Lange, J. Pohl, T. Santarius, “Digitalization and energy consumption. Does ICT reduce energy demand?”, Ecological Economics, Vol. 176, Oct. 2020, 106760
 EU 5G Infrastructure Public Private Partnership Association, “5G Vision: the next generation of communication networks and services”, 2015 https://5g-ppp.eu/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/5G-Vision-Brochure-v1.pdf
 M. Latva-aho, K. Leppänen (eds.), “Key drivers and research challenges for 6G ubiquitous wireless intelligence”, 6G Research Visions 1, Sept. 2019, ISBN 978-952-62-2353-7
 H. Bogucka, F. Idzikowski, B. Bossy, „Energy-Efficiency in Future Massive Communication and Computing Networks”, IEEE Communication Technology News, Aug. 2020, https://www.comsoc.org/publications/ctn/balancing-explosive-growth-dramatic-energy-efficiency-improvements-necessity-green
1 The Equivalent Carbon Dioxide (CO2e) is a term for describing different greenhouse gases in a common unit. For any quantity and type of greenhouse gas, CO2e signifies the amount of CO2 which would have the equivalent global warming impact.
2 Based on the slideshow by Luis Neves, GeSI Chairman, “#SMARTer2030: ICT – Disruptive Technologies for Sustainable and Better Living” at 5th ITU Green Standards Week, Nassau, The Bahamas.
Prof. Hanna Bogucka received her Ph.D. in 1995 and doctor habilitated in 2006 at the Poznan University of Technology and the title of professor of technical sciences in 2014. Currently, she is the Director of the Institute of Radiocommunications. Prof. Hanna Bogucka has been the executive editor of the journal „Transactions on Emerging Telecommunications Technologies” (publishing house Wiley), and the Editorial Advisory Board member of „Recent Advances in Communications and Networking Technology”. Prof. Hanna Bogucka took the position of the Director of the IEEE Communications Society in the EMEA region and the Chair of the IEEE Radio Communications Committee. Prof. Hanna Bogucka is a correspondent member of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Currently, she serves as a Board Member at RIMEDO Labs.
You can reach prof. Bogucka at: email@example.com