ICT Industry Agrees Landmark Science-Based Pathway to Reach Net Zero Emissions

ITU, GeSI, GSMA & SBTi Set Science-Based Pathway In Line With Paris Agreement

The ICT industry is today taking an unprecedented step forward in tackling climate change with the release of the first-ever science-based pathway to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions across the telecoms sector. This supports the GSMA’s commitment to helping the mobile industry achieve Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The new Science-Based Target (SBT) is the result of a collaboration between the ITU, GeSI, the GSMA, and SBTi to develop a sector-specific decarbonisation pathway that allows ICT companies to set targets in line with the latest climate science. It includes 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.

Twenty nine operator groups representing 30 per cent of global mobile connections are already committed to SBTs. These include America Movil, AT&T, BT, Bharti Airtel, Deutsche Telekom, Elisa, Far Eastone, KPN, Magyar Telekom, NTT DOCOMO, Orange, Proximus, Reliance Jio Infocomm, Safaricom, Singtel, SK Telecom, STC, Swisscom, T Mobile USA, Taiwan Mobile, TDC, Tele2, Telefónica, Telekom Austria, Telenor, Telia, Telstra, Verizon, and Vodafone.

Many more will now be able to set targets by applying the trajectory recommendations released today.

“Today’s landmark agreement underlines how the ICT sector is taking urgent and unprecedented action in response to the climate emergency,” said Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA. “The mobile industry is one of the first major sectors in the world to voluntarily set an SBT for emissions reductions. Our sector will form the backbone to the future global economy and has a unique role to play in reaching a Net Zero economy. A decarbonised world will be a digital world, so we must show leadership and take responsibility for driving positive climate action.”

The GSMA is also launching a Climate Toolkit for operators today which includes company guidance for setting science-based targets. Further information is available at: https://www.gsma.com/betterfuture/climate-action-toolkit

Renewable energy to drive emissions reductions
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. Companies are required to set one target for their combined Scope 1 and 2 emissions, with additional guidance provided for managing Scope 3 emissions[1].

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 ICT sector pathway SBT was approved by the Science-Based Target Initiative (SBTi) this month following a consultation period. Full details are provided in the official ITU standard: GHG emissions trajectories for the ICT sector compatible with the UNFCCC Paris Agreement (Ref: Recommendation ITU L.1470).

Mobile industry demonstrating leadership on climate action
Today’s announcement forms part of the GSMA’s climate action roadmap for the mobile industry, which has already seen operators disclose their climate impacts, energy, and emissions via the internationally recognised CDP global disclosure system.[2]

The GSMA is working with participating operators and partnering with the international community, climate experts and third-party organisations to advance industry progress, establish best practices, and support disclosure and target setting. The work forms part of the industry’s journey to support the delivery of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically SDG #13 on Climate Action.

The industry is also committed to advancing mobile technology innovations in areas such as big data and IoT that can 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 CO2e in 2018[3]. These emissions savings were almost ten times greater than the global carbon footprint of the mobile industry itself.

[1] https://www.epa.gov/greeningepa/greenhouse-gases-epa

[2] https://www.gsma.com/newsroom/press-release/worlds-leading-mobile-operators-to-disclose-climate-impacts-as-part-of-new-gsma-led-climate-action-roadmap/

[3] https://www.gsma.com/newsroom/press-release/mobile-technologies-enabling-huge-carbon-reductions-in-response-to-climate-emergency/