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Mobile Industry Races to Net Zero

April 23, 2021

The global mobile industry’s race to net zero emissions is gaining pace as the UN’s Race To Zero campaign declares the industry has made a critical ‘Breakthrough’. More than a third of the mobile industry, by revenue, has now credibly committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050 or earlier, according to the rigorous criteria of the UN Race To Zero campaign. In January, the mobile industry was the first sector to break through the 20% tipping point necessary to accelerate the systems transformation needed to deliver a zero-carbon world rapidly.

The momentum continues to build as almost two-thirds of the mobile industry has set science-based carbon reduction targets to cut emissions rapidly over this decade.

“As an industry, we are serious about our ambition to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. There is no time to waste. That’s 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,” said Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA. “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.”

Race To Zero, the UN-backed global campaign, aims to reach ‘Breakthrough Ambition’ for at least 10 industry sectors by COP26. Its goal is to rally leadership and support from all non-state actors for a healthy, resilient, zero carbon recovery as the largest global alliance of credible net zero commitments. Industries achieve this critical Breakthrough 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.

Nigel Topping, UN High Level Climate Champion for COP26, said, “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. I would like to recognize the GSMA as one of our first ‘Race To Zero Accelerators’ for their unique role in orchestrating this huge industry effort in support of the Race To Zero campaign, from the start.”

Today, the GSMA launches its new annual report, “Mobile Net Zero – State of the Industry on Climate Action 2021.” This is the first analysis of how the mobile industry is progressing towards its ambition to be net zero by 2050. Insights include:

  • Mobile operators covering 50% of global mobile connections and 65% of industry revenues have now committed to science-based targets
  • 36% of the mobile industry by revenue and 31% of the mobile industry by connections have credibly committed to net zero emissions by 2050 or earlier through the UN Race to Zero campaign.
  • Mobile operators worldwide[1] are stepping up and committing to undertaking the relevant actions necessary to deliver a net zero world as laid out by the Climate Action Pathways.
  • By 2020, 60 mobile operators providing 69% of the world’s mobile connections and 80% of revenue disclosed their climate impacts, risks and opportunities to the Carbon Disclosure Project.
  • Research conducted by the GSMA with the Carbon Trust found, while the mobile industry is currently responsible for around 0.4% of carbon emissions globally, it enables carbon reductions in other sectors that are 10 times larger, equivalent to approximately 4% of global emissions
  • 5G networks are built with network energy efficiency in mind; 5G’s specification calls for a 90% reduction in the energy use to transfer each bit of data.

To advance its ambition, the GSMA created a Climate Action Taskforce in 2019. The task force has grown rapidly over the last two years and now has 50 members, with networks in most countries globally.

Last month, 13 GSMA members across Europe declared they would reach net zero by 2040 as part of the European Green Digital Coalition launch. And in February, one of Africa’s largest mobile operators, MTN, announced a 2040 net zero target as well as 2030 targets averaging a 47% cut.

Today, Turkcell announced its commitment to use 100% renewable electricity before 2030. Embracing renewable electricity is critical to achieving net zero. GSMA members were among the first companies in the world to embrace renewable electricity. Nine operator groups are members of the global RE100 campaign[2], and more operators are committing to renewable electricity targets[3].

“As a global citizen, we believe that climate change is an urgent and significant issue to be resolved, and that it is our social responsibility as a mobile operator to pass on the irreplaceable global environment to the next generation. We are proud to be part of GSMA Climate Action Initiative and happy to announce that Turkcell is committed to use 100% renewable electricity before 2030,” said Murat Erkan, Chief Executive Officer, Turkcell. “We will continue to use our technological competencies for producing environmentally friendly solutions and provide the most sustainable services to our customers for a better future together.”

“All participants in Race To Zero 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 in order to deliver a resilient zero carbon world,” said Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Click here to download GSMA’s new annual report, “Mobile Net Zero – State of the Industry on Climate Action 2021.”

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