Environmental Sustainability

Maximising the environmental advantages of mobile

Our mission is to promote a resource-efficient mobile industry, while reducing the carbon emissions of other sectors through the use of mobile technologies.

Governments, industry and the wider public broadly accept the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming and climate change. To this end, mobile network operators have been improving the energy efficiency of their network infrastructure and frequently turning to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and hybrid power systems to power off-grid, rural base stations.

The larger story, however, is the enabling role of mobile technologies in reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions in other sectors such as buildings and transport. The GSMA estimates that, by 2020, mobile technologies could reduce carbon emissions in other sectors by about five times the mobile industry’s own footprint, the equivalent of taking one in three cars off the road.

As machine-to-machine (M2M) technologies proliferate, carbon emissions are expected to reduce even further. By raising awareness of the environmental advantages of mobile solutions, as well as the economic advantages, the mobile sector can become an increasingly powerful tool in tackling the impacts of climate change.

A Closer Look
Impacts

Approximately 80% of the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of mobile operators is from their networks. The Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI)1 estimates that by 2020 the mobile industry could generate about 51% of global information and communication technology (ICT) energy-related emissions. The GSMA Mobile Energy Efficiency benchmarking service has helped network operators measure and monitor the relative efficiency of their radio access networks.

The increasing use of USB-based chargers is having a positive impact, allowing devices to power through a common charger and reducing the number ending up in landfill. There is also a vibrant market for used mobile phones. Deloitte Global2 predicts that 10% of premium smartphones purchased new in 2016 will end up having three or more owners before being retired, and that 7% of smartphone sales will be used devices.

As part of the WeCare campaign, the GSMA Latin America works on initiatives to reduce eWaste, protect the environment and contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals on climate change. For more information, visit the regional website.

1 SMART 2020: Enabling the low carbon economy in the information age, report by The Climate Group on behalf of the Global e-Sustainability Initiative, 2008.

2 Used smartphones: the $17 billion market you may never have heard of – TMT Predictions 2016, Deloitte

Opportunities

Mobile connectivity has the potential to directly and indirectly reduce the environmental impact of other areas of the economy. Carbon Trust for GeSI3 estimates that 70% of the potential carbon emission reductions linked to mobile come from the use of M2M technologies in the buildings, transport and energy sectors. 20% come from the use of smartphones to enable behavioural changes in lifestyle and working patterns. The remaining 10% come from smart applications in cities, healthcare, agriculture and physical-to-digital substitution.

The Carbon Trust for GeSI report also estimates that mobile technologies enable a reduction of 180 million tonnes of CO2e per year in the United States and Europe. This amount is greater than the annual carbon emissions from the Netherlands and is equivalent to 1.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the US and Europe.

Governments should set policies that encourage mobile M2M solutions in sectors where the potential to reduce emissions is great, as part of their national Low Emissions Development Strategies.

3 Carbon Trust for GeSI Mobile Carbon Impact – How mobile communications technology is enabling carbon emissions reduction, 2015