Global growth in mobile communications technology has a positive impact on climate change

  • Carbon emissions abatement effect from mobile communications technology greater than annual emissions of Netherlands 
  • Positive impact on climate change 5 times greater than direct footprint from mobile networks
  • Significant potential for increasing future impact of abatement effect
  • Smartphones unlocking more sustainable lifestyles for consumers

Mobile communications technology is making a considerable contribution to action on climate change according to GeSI Mobile Carbon Impact, a new report released today by the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), authored by the Carbon Trust.

The analysis found that the use of mobile in the USA and Europe alone is already enabling a saving of more than 180 million tonnes of carbon emissions a year, an amount greater than the total annual emissions of the Netherlands. This abatement, or reduction impact, is approximately 5 times greater than the emissions emitted from the operation of the mobile networks.

The report is the first time that the actual impact mobile is having today has been quantified in detail. The Carbon Trust assessed 60 carbon saving mechanisms across ten categories. This involved examining a variety of uses of mobile communications technology, from the use of smartphones to machine-to-machine (M2M) connections.

The Carbon Trust’s analysis shows that the largest savings currently being made are in the operation of buildings and transportation, thanks to improvements in areas such as building management and route planning, which has reduced energy and fuel use. Mobile is also making a meaningful impact thanks to changes it has enabled in lifestyles and working patterns, as well as on energy infrastructure.

An international study of 4,000 smartphone users across the USA, UK, Spain, South Korea and Mexico was conducted for the report and found that many people are already using their smartphone in a way that helps cut their personal carbon emissions. Overall, respondents expressed high levels of willingness to adopt new behaviours that could result in even more substantial future reductions.

The past decade has seen an explosive growth in mobile. There are now more than 7 billion mobile connections in the world, up from just over 2 billion in 2005. And the technology is transforming how individuals and organisations behave, helping them to do things more productively or efficiently, at the same time as reducing overall environmental impact.

But some of the greatest future potential savings exist in other areas such as agriculture, where mobile communications can help with everything from promoting the use of sustainable farming techniques to using sensors to avoid the excessive application of fertiliser.

Mobile communications technology is also helping to unlock a number of the technological advances projected to have a significant future impact on sustainable development which do not exist at scale today, such as smart grids and driverless cars.  

The report also projects that the abatement impact from mobile is set to increase by at least 3 times over next 5 years.

Luis Neves, Chairman of GeSI, said:

“Advances in Mobile Communications over the last few years are helping to transform the world for the better. We are just at the beginning of an accelerating adoption curve, where businesses, governments and society recognise the wealth of possibilities offered by the technology to do things differently. This report shows that Mobile is already making a real difference across the global economy, helping us to shape a more sustainable world.”

Andie Stephens, Senior Consultant at the Carbon Trust, added:

“Mobile is going to have a key role to play in helping to tackle climate change. But the impact the technology is having today is just a fraction of its full potential. Given the urgency of the challenge the world faces then there is a clear case to accelerate the adoption of the various mechanisms through which mobile can help to cut carbon. It should also help promote green growth in the developing world, helping emerging economies to leapfrog over the need for certain types of high carbon infrastructure.”

Louise Harry, Head of Safety & Sustainability at EE added:

“As the UK’s largest mobile network operator we do our best to reduce our own environmental impact. But we also recognise that we can help our customers to reduce their own environmental impacts through the use of mobile communications. This analysis by the Carbon Trust, on behalf of GeSI, highlights the power of technology to enable organisations and individuals to take action on climate change today across a range of sectors, as well as the growing role it will play in the future.”

Jim Gowen, Chief Sustainability Officer, Verizon Communications, said:

“No single company, and no single country, can realize the full promise of the mobile innovation era on its own. Just as new devices and readily available applications are the technology platforms of the future, we believe collaboration and openness will be the operating platforms of the future – requiring new kinds of partnerships among all the different players in the ecosystem. Verizon is proud to be a part of GeSI and looks forward to continuing the momentum of enabling the reduction of carbon emissions through mobile technology.”

The report has been funded by GeSI, BT, EE, Telefónica UK (O2) and Vodafone. Technical guidance was also provided by representatives from: Bell Canada, BT, EE, Ericsson, Swisscom, Telefónica UK (O2), Telenor, Verizon and Vodafone.

Read the report and see the infographics in full here




For more information please contact Ainslie MacLeod at the Carbon Trust press office on +44 (0) 20 7170 7050 or email


About GeSI:

Bringing together over 30 of the major Information and Communication Technology (ICT) companies and organisations around the globe, the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) is a leading source of impartial information, resources and best practices for achieving integrated social and environmental sustainability through ICT. For more information, see 


About the Carbon Trust:

The Carbon Trust is an independent company with a mission to accelerate the move to a sustainable, low-carbon economy. The Carbon Trust:

  • advises businesses, governments and the public sector on opportunities in a sustainable, low-carbon world;
  • measures and certifies the environmental footprint of organisations, products and services;
  • helps develop and deploy low-carbon technologies and solutions, from energy efficiency to renewable power.


For more information visit