Despite Double-Digit Growth in Data Traffic and 5G Expansions, Operators Limited Carbon Emissions Growth to 2% in 2021
18 May, London: The number of mobile operators committed to rapid emissions cuts has increased by more than 50% over the last year, according to a new GSMA report. The 2022 Mobile Net Zero Report reveals that 49 operators representing 62% of the industry by revenue have now committed to rapidly cutting emissions over the next decade. This represents an increase of 18 operators since 2020, despite the challenges of Covid-19. In addition, 50% of mobile network operators by revenue have now committed to net-zero targets by 2050 or earlier.
Despite double-digit growth in data traffic and the global expansion of 5G networks, the report shows that operators successfully limited increases in carbon emissions to 2% on average in 2021. Investment in more energy-efficient network equipment and lower-carbon energy sources helped industry players limit their carbon impact, even as networks grew significantly to meet consumer demand.
Decoupling data and emissions
Whilst further work is needed to reduce emissions to hit its net zero ambition for 2050, the mobile industry continues to make meaningful progress in successfully decoupling data traffic with electricity use and carbon emissions. Data traffic was up 31% last year, with electricity up 5%, but associated carbon emissions only grew by 2%.
To boost energy efficiency, the industry is increasingly turning to artificial intelligence, machine learning and virtualization to optimise power use in equipment, centralise network resources and avoid unnecessary heating or air-conditioning.
As well as harnessing operational efficiencies, operators are transitioning to more renewable electricity, with 18% of total electricity consumption sourced from renewable sources during 2021, up from 14% in 2020. Given the electricity demand to power mobile networks, the GSMA continue to call on governments to create suitable energy market frameworks for businesses to access renewable electricity at a competitive price.
GSMA’s Director General Mats Granryd said, “We are proud that the mobile industry continues to align around the 1.5C decarbonization pathway, even in the face of double-digit growth in demand for mobile services. We have far more to do to achieve our net zero ambitions, but mobile will undeniably play an essential role in helping industries and individuals across the globe reduce their carbon impact.
“The connected solutions we underpin, such as remote working, IoT and automation, are key enablers in reducing travel, cutting emissions in other industries and transitioning to a lower carbon future. We also take our responsibilities seriously, with greater disclosure and strict targets to reduce our own emissions, as we show in our annual Mobile Net Zero report.”
To better understand current emissions and reduce them, the report shows the mobile industry is driving for higher levels of climate disclosure. Of the industry, 66% by connections and 82% by revenue globally disclose their climate impacts. Mobile operators scoring a D or D- the previous year have improved their ratings to C, sometimes even leapfrogging to B.
Supplier engagement continues to be crucial to achieving the industry’s decarbonisation goals. This year operators have engaged suppliers around moving towards greater circularity, through the reuse and recycling of network equipment.
The mobile sector has an important role to play to combat climate change. By fostering a twin digital and green transition, countries will be able to reap the benefits of further emission reductions across all sectors of the economy.
Click here to download the GSMA’s Mobile Net Zero Report: State of the Industry on Climate Action 2022.
The GSMA is a global organisation unifying the mobile ecosystem to discover, develop and deliver innovation foundational to positive business environments and societal change. Our vision is to unlock the full power of connectivity so that people, industry, and society thrive. Representing mobile operators and organisations across the mobile ecosystem and adjacent industries, the GSMA delivers for its members across three broad pillars: Connectivity for Good, Industry Services and Solutions, and Outreach. This activity includes advancing policy, tackling today’s biggest societal challenges, underpinning the technology and interoperability that make mobile work, and providing the world’s largest platform to convene the mobile ecosystem at the MWC and M360 series of events.
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