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ICT Creates a Low Carbon Future: HZAU Insights in Science

As the world progresses, humanity looks for solution to prepare for the future and live in harmony with our environment.

On September 30, 2022, the leading academic journal, Science, published a letter titled  “A low-carbon future for China's tech industry”  by associate professor Ke He as the first author and professor Junbiao Zhang as the corresponding author. The two professors are both from the School of Economics & Management, Huazhong Agricultural University. The letter looks forward to the low-carbon transformation of the information and communication technology (ICT) industry in the global context of  climate change. It gives suggestions on how the ICT industry can help China achieve its “dual carbon” goals, namely, to achieve carbon peak in 2030 and carbon neutrality in 2050.

Since the first industrial revolution, the birth, application, and popularity of every technology have extensively promoted economic and social development. As human society is in its greatest digital revolution, ICT has proved a powerful game changer for the society, economy, and people’s lifestyles. Against this backdrop, the letter points out that humans cannot afford the price of neglecting carbon missions while recognizing the ICT industry’s contributions. At the same time, the ICT industry can reduce emissions from other sectors and increase their efficiency by connecting devices, operation lines, factories, suppliers, products, and customers through Internet platforms.

This means that digitalization and low-carbon development can promote each other in their synchronous transitions. Therefore, China should continue to build and share an moderate amount of data centers, communication base stations, and communication equipment rooms serving as a hub for major ICT activities to improve the energy efficiency of ICT infrastructure and reduce carbon emissions caused by redundant constructions. ICT industry should also use clean energy, including biomass energy, as much as possible in its production and life throughout the supply chain. At the same time, the industry should also be encouraged to promote services such as online conferences, working from home, and telemedicine to reduce carbon emissions caused by unnecessary travel.

Finally, the letter indicates that global participation and joint efforts are required to tackle climate change. As one of the global leaders in TCI, China can achieve its intended nationally determined contributions of emissions reduction faster by promoting the high-quality development of the ICT industry. Meanwhile, China also shoulders its responsibilities as a major stakeholder by providing support and assistance to other developing countries in their process of ICT development, especially small island countries, African countries, and least-developed countries.

The letter conducts an in-depth discussion on how China can achieve its “dual carbon” goals in the global context of climate change. It provides new insights into global climate change response by showing the Chinese path, Chinese governance, and Chinese philosophy. Three doctoral students, Fanlue Li, Hao Wang, and Ruoyu Ming from the College of Economics & Management, Huazhong Agricultural University, also participate in the research.

Translated by: Deng Yuxiang
Proofed by: Cheng Qing
Supervised by: Pan Buhan