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5g networks can help us to reach our climate change targets.

5G fundamental to European climate targets

As Cop26 continues in Glasgow, Europe-wide comms analysis shows using next-gen connectivity solutions could reduce emissions by 15% by 2030. Ericsson claims that the 5G rollout across high emitting sectors including transport, power, buildings and manufacture could be the catalyst for an emissions, saving of 55-170 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) annually. That's the equivalent of removing 35 million cars from roads in Europe and the UK.

The report on Connectivity and Climate Change draws its methodologies and data sources from service providers and communications technology prior cases and research. It also references joint research on environmental footprints of communications networks and the McKinsey Sustainability Report into achieving net-zero emissions at net-zero cost.

Fixed line and mobile

The study calculates that, up to 2030, at least 40% of carbon reduction strategies in the EU will rely on mobile and fixed line connectivity. Solutions including renewable energy generators could reduce emissions by 550MtCO2e - that's around half the emissions emitted by the energy supply sector in 2017, and 15% of the EU's total emissions that year.

With additional savings made by using 5G in transport, power, building and manufacture, Europe could reduce its total emissions by 20%, equivalent to the total emissions of Italy and Spain combined.

Sensor driven improvement

The report makes specific mention of using sensors in renewable energy generation and deployment to make significant savings of up to 75 MtCO2e by 2030. Improved truck utilisation could bring savings of 55 MtCO2e, while sensor-driven efficiency improvements in manufacturing would save another 35 MtCO2e. Remote working enabled by fast 5G connectivity would save 5 MtCO2e in the construction industry.

However, despite the potential emissions savings at stake, the report also warns that by the end of 2020, only 15% of the world's population is covered by 5G. And forecasts show that, by 2027, that coverage will only stand at 75%. That's three years before emissions need to be halved to achieve the 1.5C global warming target.

More worryingly, Europe will trail its competitors in North America and Asia with coverage of 80% in comparison to 95% plus.

Transformational shifts

Ericsson president and CEO Börje Ekholm said the carbon reduction targets set by the EU and the UK would require transformational shifts across society and that 5G is critical to achieving decarbonisation. He urged Europe to act fast to accelerate its digital rollout to match that of other major economies around the world.

Ekholm added that sustainability should be viewed as a vital responsibility, not an add-on extra and that Ericsson would be investing heavily in energy efficient products and solutions. Currently the company is developing a 5G Smart Factory in the US which showcases the emissions savings that can be achieved by implementing 5G manufacturing solutions.

Policymakers and regulators have a major role to play, Ekholm says, in realising the sustainable, social and economic benefits of a speedy 5G rollout. He says Europe is currently strolling rather than sprinting towards its low carbon future. However, with the right regulatory and financial assistance people and businesses across Europe will be able to enjoy all the sustainability benefits of superfast connectivity.

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