In a move that was long overdue, 17 mobile phone manufacturers and providers yesterday promised to introduce a single, power-efficient charger for new cellphones by January 2012.

As we revealed earlier this week, the commitment was announced by the GSMA trade organisation, which estimates that the changes should save the production of 600-960 million chargers each year, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 13.6 to 21.8 million tonnes annually.

The new universal chargers will use micro-USB as a common interface, and will enjoy a 4-star or higher efficiency rating.

Three times as efficient

That means the new chargers will be up to three times more energy-efficient than an unrated charger, and exceed the requirements of both European Commission efficiency codes for power supplies and the US Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star V.

The single charger will be able to power up future handsets and should allow consumers to charge their phones almost anywhere - even overseas.

The companies who have signed up to the universal charger commitment are: the 3 Group, AT&T, KTF, LG, mobilkom austria, Motorola, Nokia, Orange, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Telenor, Telstra, T-Mobile and Vodafone.

Noticeable, and to our minds rather shameful absences, from the agreement include Apple, RIM, Palm and HTC. Come on, guys, if Nokia can make it work across its huge platform of handsets, you really have no excuse...