The GSMA agrees climate change targets for telecoms

via Flickr © rightee (CC BY 2.0)

via Flickr © rightee (CC BY 2.0)

  • It’s about  creating a sector-specific decarbonisation pathway for the industry
  • Mobile operators adopting the target will need to  reduce emissions by at least 45 per cent
  • There are many three letter acronyms involved

Another Three Letter Acronym (TLA) or two for you to take on-board. The GSMA says it’s agreed a Science-Based Target (SBT) and pathway to reduce Green House Gas (GHG) emissions in telecoms with the goal of getting to industry wide ‘net zero’ carbon emissions by 2050. 

The new SBT is the fruit of collaboration between the GSMA, the ITU and several other big sector acronyms, with the goal of creating a sector-specific decarbonisation pathway for the industry. 

It means that ICT companies can set targets in line with the latest climate science. Included are emissions reductions trajectories for mobile, fixed and data centre operators to meet the ambitious Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°c, designed to substantially reduce the risks and effects of climate change.

Here’s how it works

According to the GSMA, the SBT sets emissions trajectory reductions over the decade (2020-2030) for each ICT sub- sector. For example, mobile network operators adopting the SBT are required to reduce emissions by at least 45 per cent over this period. 

It says, “the switch to renewable and low-carbon electricity is expected to account for the bulk of reductions over this period, alongside efforts by operators to become more energy efficient. Access to renewable energy, which can vary widely depending on an operator’s geographic location is, therefore, a key factor determining an operator’s ability to meet the SBT.”

The GSMA says this announcement is all part of its climate action roadmap for the mobile industry under which operators disclose their climate impacts, energy, and emissions then set about establishing the specific targets they need to meet.

The industry is also committed to advancing mobile technology innovations in areas such as big data and IoT that can in turn enable energy efficient and environmental solutions across multiple sectors, including transport, manufacturing, agriculture, building, and energy. 

A recent report produced by the GSMA and the Carbon Trust calculated that the use of mobile technology enabled a global reduction in emissions of around 2,135 million tonnes of CO2 in 2018 - emission savings that were almost ten times greater than the global carbon footprint of the mobile industry itself. Before you get excited, there is no suggestion that  telcos should be able to count other sectors’ savings using their technology against their own targets, although there might be a case for that. 

However, as an industry it’s all very nice and comforting to agree a  target because then (if the industry manages to meet it) there is a defensible answer - that the industry is following targets suggested by the science - to any green question.   

But then you still have to wonder whether Net Zero by 2050 will prove to be enough. Fortunately the STB can be changed as the science behind it evolves.

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