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Mobile Carbon Impact

How mobile communications technology is making a considerable contribution to action on climate change

Publication date: December 2015

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

The analysis finds 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.

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© 2016 Carbon Trust
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