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UK tech sector has potential to slash emissions by two thirds in next 10 years 

The tech sector has the potential to reduce its global carbon emissions by 40% by 2030 (and by 68% in the UK) despite an eight-fold increase in global data traffic to more than 22 zettabytes (ZB) over the same period, claims a new report by Accenture and BT. 

The authors of Harnessing data to empower a sustainable future claim the tech sector can limit the Compound Annual Growth Rate in energy demand to just 1.3% over the next decade and reduce its global emissions by purchasing renewable electricity, setting and achieving science based emissions reductions targets and driving improved energy efficiencies through 5G, fibre and the Cloud. 

The report cites the UK as a leader in this area, pointing out that investments in 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. 

At the same time, the adoption of new technologies in the tech sector has the potential to benefit four emissions intensive areas of the economy – electricity & heating, agriculture, manufacturing and smart living – and deliver an additional 8.5 giga-tonnes (Gt) of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) in carbon savings through resource and material savings, increased energy efficiencies and improvements in renewable energy adoption.

The report calls for more ambitious and widespread commitments to achieve global carbon reductions and outlines five key aims for the tech sector over the next decade: 

  1.  to meet or exceed ambitious carbon reduction targets; 
  2.  to invest in networks and operations to continue to improve energy efficiency; 
  3.  to retire legacy technology, where possible; 
  4. to incentivise and enable the adoption of new technologies; and 5 to develop and roll-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 emissions the sector is responsible for and the savings it enables. 

“We’re already using 100% renewable electricity worldwide, we’re building the next generation of fixed full fibre and 5G mobile networks across the UK, and we’re retiring legacy networks where possible. All of which supports our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint and to become a net zero emissions business by 2030 for our own operations and by 2040 for our supply chain and customer emissions.” 

One zettabyte is equal to one sextillion bytes (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000), a billion terabytes or a trillion gigabytes.

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