A new report from BT and Accenture, Harnessing data to empower a sustainable future, has found that the tech sector is set to reduce its energy demand and global carbon emissions by as much as 40 per cent over the next decade – despite an expected eight-fold increase in data traffic by 2030.
Purchasing renewable electricity, setting and achieving science-based emissions reductions targets and driving energy efficiencies through new technologies such as 5G, fibre networks, and the Cloud, could cut carbon emissions significantly whilst limiting the growth in energy demand to just 1.3 per cent Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) over the next decade.
While progress is being made by the global tech sector to reduce its carbon footprint, the report found that the UK was one of the countries leading the way.
Investments in and growth of renewable electricity on the UK grid; the closure of the legacy public switched telephone network (PSTN) by the end of 2025; and the migration of customers onto full fibre and 5G networks could see sector carbon emissions in the UK decrease by up to 68 per cent over the next decade.
The report also found that these new technologies from the tech sector could also benefit four emissions-intensive areas of the economy: electricity and heat; agriculture; manufacturing; and smart living, including transportation and buildings.
In total, by 2030, these technologies could help enable an additional 8.5 gigatonnes (Gt) of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) in carbon savings, through resource and material savings, increased energy efficiencies, and improvements in renewable energy adoption. In the UK, these steps are expected to save up to 61 metric tons (Mt) CO2e. For the global transport sector alone, up to 61 per cent of global transportation emissions could be saved through increased technology adoption and new uses.
To achieve these global carbon reductions, the report calls for more ambitious and wide-spread commitments and makes five key recommendations for the tech sector to focus on over the next decade:
With a customer base of 30 million households and one million SMEs, BT is well placed to help its customers to cut emissions. The company believes that the roll out of full fibre broadband to 25 million homes and businesses by December 2026 alongside the offer of high performance 5G solutions across the entire UK by 2028 will help underpin many of the innovative solutions needed to achieve a net zero carbon economy.
“This report demonstrates the progress being made by BT and the rest of the technology sector in curbing emissions and sets the record straight around the sector – the emissions it’s responsible for and the savings it enables,” commented Andy Wales, Chief Digital Impact & Sustainability Officer at BT. “We have led on climate action for more than 30 years and will continue to take action in line with the report’s findings. We’re already using 100 per cent renewable electricity worldwide, we’re building the next generation of fixed full fibre and 5G mobile networks across the UK, and we’re retiring legacy networks where possible. All of which supports our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint and to become a net zero emissions business by 2030 for our own operations, and 2040 for our supply chain and customer emissions.”
In the run up to climate talks later in 2021, BT is calling on other companies to set their own ambitious net zero targets and to engage with their customers, colleagues and suppliers about climate change and the difference they can make.
In September 2021, BT announced a new net zero target of 2030 for its own operational emissions, and 2040 for its supply chain and customer emissions. The company previously planned to be net zero by 2045.