Emissions in tech sector set to drop 40% by 2030 despite growing traffic

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% 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% 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% 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% 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:

  1. Meeting, or exceeding, ambitious carbon reduction targets
  2. Investing in networks and operations to continue to improve energy efficiencies
  3. Retiring legacy technology where possible
  4. Incentivising and enabling the adoption of new technologies
  5. Developing and rolling-out cross-industry use cases for carbon enablement at scale.

Andy Wales, Chief Digital Impact & Sustainability Officer at BT said: “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.

In the run up to climate talks later this year, 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.

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