Through mitigating their emissions and advancing mobile technology innovations, the mobile sector will play a central role in addressing global climate change and stimulate the shift towards a low carbon economy.
Following the Paris Agreement, governments worldwide committed to maintain the global average temperature rise well below 2°C and to aim for 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels. Limiting temperature rise is essential in avoiding the severe consequences caused by climate change.
During the last year, many of the world’s largest mobile operator groups agreed to start disclosing their climate impacts. A decarbonisation pathway for the mobile industry, aligned with the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), has been developed. This includes an industry-wide plan to achieve net-zero GHG emissions by 2050, in line with the Paris Agreement. The switch to renewable electricity is expected to account for the bulk of reductions to 2030, alongside efforts by operators to become more energy efficient.
I am proud that the mobile industry is one of the first major industry sectors globally to voluntarily collaborate to agree greenhouse gas emissions reductions, as part of a new GSMA-led initiative to develop a climate action roadmap in line with the Paris Agreement. A decarbonised world will be a digital world, so we must show leadership and take responsibility for driving positive climate action.
Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA
Evolving investor expectations
Increasingly companies are being asked to demonstrate clear commitments and progress in reducing carbon emissions, as well as demonstrating they have properly accounted for the costs associated with climate change. The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) is developing voluntary and consistent financial disclosures for companies to measure climate risks. The guidance sets out how a business should account for its physical, liability and transition risks from climate change and communicate this information to stakeholders.
Climate risk leads the way
In this year’s Sustainability Assessment Framework, Climate Risk is the highest scoring issue in the Operating Responsibly pillar, a position unchanged from last year’s assessment. Of the companies included in our assessment 95 per cent disclose data relating to emissions, up from 84 per cent last year. The assessment also found 52 per cent of companies have set carbon reduction targets in line with this ‘net zero by 2050’ sector pathway and a further 20 per cent have committed to establishing and setting a target that aligns with this goal. Of the companies in the assessment 29 per cent disclose their climate change risks, while 8 per cent have committed to do so in the future.
Many mobile operators have been addressing issues related to climate action for some time, disclosing performance data and setting targets for emissions reductions, which is reflected in the strong score for Climate Risk in our Assessment. The highest scoring companies are also seeking to respond to investor expectations, disclosing their climate change risks in line with TCFD recommendations.
Steven Moore, Head of Climate Action, GSMA
The power of enablement
Given the current trajectory of rising global temperatures, reduction initiatives will not be sufficient to keep temperatures below the 2°C target. Companies must therefore look beyond reducing their direct emissions and explore how they can support other companies and industry sectors in reducing their emissions too.
While the mobile industry is taking meaningful steps to reduce its emissions, it is having an even larger effect supporting other sectors to reduce their emissions. This is through efficiencies created using smart connected machine-to-machine technologies, primarily in the buildings, transport, manufacturing and energy sector. Smart energy management in buildings and smart grids, for example, reduces emissions from heating and lighting. Mobile communication technology is also enabling behavioural change, reducing travel, and increasing the use of public transport. The Enablement Effect report published by the GSMA estimated the emissions savings enabled by the mobile industry were almost ten times greater than the global carbon footprint of the industry itself.
The Sustainability Assessment Framework identifies several examples of best practice in Climate Risk disclosures. Orange set itself a target of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2040, 10 years earlier than the sector decarbonisation pathway. To achieve this, an initial goal is set to reduce CO2 emissions by 30 per cent from 2015 to 2025. A further supporting goal is to increase the share of renewable energy to 50 per cent of the Group’s energy mix by 2025. Orange aligns its publications with the recommendations of the TCFD. Orange has also established a special monitoring committee to conduct “in-depth analysis of the risks related to climate change and to the ecological transition and to identify projects that must be implemented to better fulfil the recommendations of the TCFD”.
Alongside ambitious carbon emissions reductions, Vodafone established an employee engagement programme, #RedLovesGreen, to raise awareness of the individual actions employees can take to reduce energy use and stimulate positive behaviour. Vodafone also created an ‘energy guru’ community whose role is to advocate energy efficiency across the business and inspire others.
A summary of the 2020 Sustainability Assessment Framework, which includes more detailed results, comment and best practice examples can be downloaded here.