ICT industry agrees landmark science-based pathway to reach net zero emissions

The ICT industry is today making an unprecedented step towards tackling climate change via the release of the first ever science-based pathway to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions across the telecoms sector.

Published on: Feb 27, 2020 | Written by: Kaoru Inoue

ITU, GeSI, GSMA & SBTi set science-based pathway in line with Paris Agreement 

27th February 2020, Brussels: The ICT industry is today making an unprecedented step towards tackling climate change via the release of the first ever science-based pathway to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions across the telecoms sector. 

The new Science-Based Target (SBT) is the result of a collaboration between the ITU, the Global Enabling Sustainability Initiative (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 by 2050, designed to substantially reduce the risks and effects of climate change.

GeSI is proud to stress that its Board Members: AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Swisscom, Taiwan Mobile, Telstra, and Verizon, together with other GeSI members T-Mobile USA, Fujitsu, and TDC, led the Industry to this outcome. Our aim now is to engage all of the GeSI membership as part of our DIGITAL WITH PURPOSE MOVEMENT.

 “The new SBT is a historic agreement that exhibits the ICT sector’s dedication to tackling the climate-related challenges we are facing today,” said James Gowen, GeSI Chairman and Verizon Chief Sustainability Officer. “Through the work of GeSI member companies we have seen how digital technologies are key to shaping a decarbonized world. We are proud to have been a part of this collaborative effort in voluntarily setting a science-based target towards climate action for a more sustainable future.” 

Renewable energy to drive emissions reductions

The SBT sets emissions trajectory reductions over the course of the decade (2020-2030) for each ICT sub sector: fixed network operators adopting the SBT are required to reduce emissions by at least 62% while mobile network operators adopting the SBT are required to reduce emissions by at least 45% and datacentre operators 53% over this period. Companies are required to set one target for its 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 document: GHG emissions trajectories for the ICT sector compatible with the UNFCCC Paris Agreement (Ref: L.1470).

Digital technologies are having a powerful impact 

According to the most recent GeSI report “DIGITAL WITH PURPOSE” the powerful collection of seven digital technologies: Digital Access, Blockchain, IoT, Fast Internet/5G, Cloud, Cognitive and Digital Reality drive positive progress across the 2030 Agenda in four key ways. They help us:  

• Connect & Communicate, opening relationships, information, ideas and opportunity;

• Monitor & Track the world around us, so that our impact is transparent, and we can make targeted interventions; 

• Analyse vast swathes of information; Optimise processes, procedures and resource productivity; and Predict where we need to intervene; and

• Augment our human abilities and Autonomate systems to carry out activities on our behalf by creating an ‘active bridge’ between the physical and digital worlds.

Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) can Fast-Track Solutions to Global Warming and Social Issues While Driving Economic Growth according to the GeSI “SMARTer2030- ICT Solutions for the 21st Century challenges” report. Key findings of the report show that: 

ICT can enable a 20 percent reduction of global CO2e emissions by 2030, holding emissions at 2015 levels.  Besides the environmental benefits, this dramatic shift also means that policy or business leaders would no longer be forced to make tradeoffs between economic prosperity and environmental protection.  

• ICT emissions as a percentage of global emissions—and in absolute quantities—will decrease over time.  The SMARTer2030 report shows the ICT emissions “footprint” is expected to decrease to 1.97 percent of global emissions by 2030 compared to 2.3 percent forecast by 2020.    

• ICT offers significant environmental benefits in addition to reducing carbon emissions. The most substantial benefits identified by this study include: increasing agricultural crop yields by 30 percent, saving 25 billion barrels of oil per year and saving 300 trillion liters of water per year. 

• An assessment of eight sectors of the global economy—energy, food, manufacturing, health, building, work/business, learning, mobility/logistics—shows that ICT could generate over $11 trillion in economic benefits per year by 2030, the equivalent of China’s annual GDP in 2015.  

• ICT will connect 2.5 billion additional people to the “knowledge economy” by 2030, giving 1.6 billion more people access to healthcare and a half-billion more people access to e-learning tools. 

Worldwide growth of the digital economy continues to accelerate, providing the scale necessary to drive greater connectivity and new, disruptive business models.  And, as opposed to the old production-line economy, individuals are firmly in the centre of this process. 



About GeSI
The Global Enabling Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) is an inclusive and open multi-sectoral, multi-stakeholder organization embracing a challenging agenda, driven by leading visionary and committed global corporations. GeSI holds the firm belief that responsible business, with digital sustainability at its core, will make for the most successful companies in the years to come.  

GeSI is comprised of diverse and international members and partnerships, representing around 40 of the world’s leading ICT companies, 12 global business and multiple international organisations, such as the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), global asset management firm Arabesque, and the World Resources Forum Association (WRFA). 

GeSI works with a range of international stakeholders committed to ICT sustainability and supports member initiatives in developed and developing nations which tackle: climate change, energy/resource efficiency, privacy and security, digital literacy and digital divide, people's rights, as well as foster collaborative and innovative approaches, ideas and joint initiatives. With these partnerships, GeSI is able to work towards its global vision of a greater evolution of the ICT sector to best meet the challenges of sustainable development. 

For more information, please visit the GeSI corporate website at www.gesi.org. Follow GeSI on Twitter: @GeSIConnect


Media Contacts:
For GeSI:

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

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