Cebit is taking on a green tinge this year, with the Climate Savers Computing Initiative playing a central role at the trade show, which opens March 4 in Hanover, Germany.

The climate initiative aims to reduce IT's carbon dioxide emissions from computer operations by 50 percent between 2007 and 2010. The group, led by PC manufacturers Dell, HP and Lenovo, among others, will present energy-efficient IT products in a special 'green village', and a central information point in Hall 9 will point visitors to other companies with environmentally friendly products. Showgoers can also take away a green IT guide produced with the help of PC Advisor's sister title Computerwoche magazine.

Climate Savers will hold a news conference on Monday evening to laud the environmental efforts of some companies - while those featured in a Greenpeace event the next morning can expect the opposite treatment: the campaign group in recent months has focused on uncovering IT manufacturers' use of pollutants.

The environmental interest of some of the green products highlighted by show organisers is a little obscure: a solar-powered flashlight and a banknote sorter figure on the list.

Other products won't save the earth, but will at least allow us to document, or measure, how much damage we're doing to it. For those who want to keep tabs on how much of the earth they've seen, the latest locating devices will also be on hand. In addition to GPS, some add GSM functions for transmitting data, offering a way to keep track of loved ones, according to one vendor. Or maybe unloved ones, too.

Hot specs for today's trackers include strong magnets to keep the unit on a vehicle and a tough form factor so the device can endure extreme weather. Many devices are also very small to stay hidden from view.

The new emphasis on saving energy and reducing emissions is just one of the changes at this year's show, which runs from Tuesday through the following Sunday. Previous shows have run Thursday through to Wednesday. The new schedule will make life simpler for professional IT users, the organisers said.

This year 5,845 exhibitors from 77 countries are attending, a little down on last year's 6,153 exhibitors from 79 countries. The strong euro has discouraged some overseas exhibitors, organisers said, although that hasn't bothered the Chinese: After Germany, China is now the most-represented country with 500 exhibitors, overtaking Taiwan.

France is also strongly represented this year: It is this year's featured country. One of the opening speeches will come from French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Another famous straight-talker is Steve Ballmer, who will be speaking on the theme 'innovation for people and the environment' at a Microsoft event on the eve of the show.

(With additional reporting by Jeremy Kirk in London.)