One-third-plus of mobile industry commits to net-zero emissions by 2050

14th May 2021 By: Natasha Odendaal - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

The global mobile industry is gaining momentum towards ambitions of net-zero emissions by 2050, with 50% of mobile operators by mobile connections and 65% by industry revenue having committed to science-based targets.

This follows the mobile sector’s achievement in January as one of the first industries to break through the United Nations’ (UN’s) Race to Zero campaign’s 20% tipping point, deemed necessary to accelerate the systems transformation needed to deliver a zero- carbon world rapidly.

“As an industry, we are serious about our ambition to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. There is no time to waste. That is why we are acting now, with 65% of the industry committed to reaching, over this decade, science-based targets that rapidly cut emissions.

“The mobile sector clearly demonstrates that, when at least 20% of a market moves, change accelerates,” says GSMA director-general Mats Granryd.

Mobile operators covering 50% of global mobile connections and 65% of industry revenues have now committed to science-based targets, while 36% of the mobile industry by revenue and 31% by connections has credibly committed to net-zero emissions by 2050 or earlier through the UN Race to Zero campaign.

By 2020, 60 mobile operators providing 69% of the world’s mobile connections and 80% of revenue had disclosed their climate impacts, risks and opportunities to the Carbon Disclosure Project.

The ‘Mobile Net Zero: State of the Industry on Climate Action 2021’ report, outlining the first analysis of how the mobile industry is progressing since its February 2019 net-zero- carbon pledge, estimates the mobile industry’s carbon dioxide equivalent a year to be about 220-million tonnes or about 0.4% of total global carbon emissions.

Further, the report points out that the roll-out of a new fifth-generation network will create upward pressure on operators’ energy use to power the new equipment.

However, data will be transferred using up to 90% less energy and, with the use of artificial intelligence to power down networks during quiet periods and the retirement of legacy equipment, it is possible to avoid significant increases in energy consumption.

“Our ambition goes beyond our own sector, as we help other industries reduce their carbon emissions through the use of mobile and network services for their digital transformation,” adds Granryd.

According to the GMSA’s ‘Mobile Net Zero’ report, the biggest contribution the mobile sector can make to climate action is to help other sectors of the economy reduce their carbon emissions through digitalisation.

While the mobile industry is currently responsible for about 0.4% of carbon emissions globally, it enables carbon reductions in other sectors that are ten times bigger, equivalent to about 4% of global emissions.

The Race To Zero campaign aims to reach ‘Breakthrough Ambition’ – when 20% of the key actors within each sector join the Race to Zero and commit to transforming their sectors, consistent with Climate Action Pathways – for at least ten industry sectors by the twenty- sixth UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in November.

“The mobile sector has shown us what real sectoral climate ambition can look like and I hope the rest of the world is taking note. We need to see this level of climate ambition across every sector of the global economy, if we are to deliver a zero-carbon world in time,” says UN COP 26 high-level climate champion Nigel Topping.

“All participants in [the] Race To Zero [campaign] are committed to the same overarching goal: halving emissions by 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. Race breakthroughs must accelerate in all areas of the economy and society to deliver a resilient zero-carbon world,” concludes UN Framework Convention on Climate Change executive secretary Patricia Espinosa.