The EU has launched an initiative to develop a standard methodology for measuring the energy and carbon footprint of information technologies:
ICT-organisations from across the world have joined forces to measure their energy consumption and carbon emissions according to several methodologies for footprinting goods, services, networks and organisations. The aim of this initiative is to test the workability and compatibility of the methodologies for footprinting in the ICT-sector. This business initiative is initiated by the European Commission DG Information Society and Media.
The overarching goal is to come to consensus within the global ICT-sector and converge towards a common methodological framework for the measurement of the energy consumption and carbon emissions arising from the production, transport and selling processes of ICT goods, networks and services. Establishing this framework is an important priority of the Digital Agenda for Europe.
As Tom Raftery at GreenMonk reports:
It is tremendous to see this kind of global leadership from the EU. While this only applies to the EU, it does require the development of measurement and reporting systems for whole IT ecosystems and that can only be a good thing. In time, the hope would be that these systems are used well beyond the EU and by all IT providers.
I agree that better information (reliable, accurate, systematic) from cloud providers about their energy use and carbon emissions is a step in the right direction. Also, market forces may play an important role here, such as pressure from customers to report energy and carbon emissions. Frameworks such as those developed by GeSI below help to think about the impacts of digital business on the environment.