Tech sector set to reduce its global carbon emissions by 40% by 2030 despite enormous growth in data traffic demand

  • Global data traffic is set to increase eight-fold – growing to over 22 zettabytes1 (ZB) by 2030; however, despite this rapid growth in data, the tech sector will dramatically reduce global carbon emissions through the adoption of 5G, fibre and Cloud technologies
  • Purchasing renewable electricity, setting and achieving science-based emissions reductions targets and driving improved energy efficiencies through 5G, fibre and the Cloud will reduce tech sector emissions by as much as 40% globally and by up to 68% in the UK
  • To seize this full potential, the sector can take a number of steps including meeting their ambitious carbon reduction targets, continuing to prioritise energy efficiency across networks and operations, migrating to the most energy-efficient networks and taking advantage of new technologies such as 5G and cloud at scale

London, 1 October 2021 – A new report commissioned by BT and developed by Accenture “Harnessing data to empower a sustainable future” has found that the tech sector is set to reduce its energy demand and global carbon emissions by as much as 40% over the next decade - despite an expected eight-fold increase in data traffic by 2030.

Purchasing renewable electricity, setting and achieving science-based emissions reductions targets and driving energy efficiencies through new technologies such as 5G, fibre networks, and the Cloud, could cut carbon emissions significantly whilst limiting the growth in energy demand to just 1.3% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) over the next decade.

While progress is being made by the global tech sector to reduce its carbon footprint, the report found that the UK was one of the countries leading the way.

Investments in and growth of 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.

The report also found that these new technologies from the tech sector could also benefit four emissions-intensive areas of the economy: electricity and heat; agriculture; manufacturing; and smart living, including transportation and buildings.

In total, by 2030, these technologies could help enable an additional 8.5 gigatonnes (Gt) of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) in carbon savings, through resource and material savings, increased energy efficiencies, and improvements in renewable energy adoption. In the UK, these steps are expected to save up to 61 metric tons (Mt) CO2e. For the global transport sector alone, up to 61% of global transportation emissions could be saved through increased technology adoption and new uses.

To achieve these global carbon reductions, the report calls for more ambitious and wide-spread commitments and makes five key recommendations for the tech sector to focus on over the next decade:

  1. Meeting, or exceeding, ambitious carbon reduction targets;
  2. Investing in networks and operations to continue to improve energy efficiencies;
  3. Retiring legacy technology where possible;
  4. Incentivising and enabling the adoption of new technologies; and
  5. Developing and rolling-out cross-industry use cases for carbon enablement at scale.

With a customer base of 30 million households and one million SMEs, BT is well placed to help its customers to cut emissions. The company believes that the roll out of full fibre broadband to 25 million homes and businesses by December 2026 alongside the offer of high performance 5G solutions across the entire UK by 2028 will help underpin many of the innovative solutions needed to achieve a net zero carbon economy.

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 sector - the emissions it’s responsible for and the savings it enables.

“We have led on climate action for more than 30 years and will continue to take action in line with the report’s findings. 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 2040 for our supply chain and customer emissions.”

In the run up to climate talks later this year, BT is calling on other companies to set their own ambitious net zero targets and to engage with their customers, colleagues and suppliers about climate change and the difference they can make.

A full version of the “Harnessing data to empower a sustainable future” can be found online here.


Notes to Editors

  • 1 One zettabyte is equal to one sextillion bytes (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000), a billion terabytes or a trillion gigabytes. Market intelligence company IDC found that Cisco compared a single zettabyte to 250 billion DVDs or 36 million years of HD video.
  • 2 According to NASA a gigatonne is the equivalent to one billion metric tons, 2.2 trillion pounds, or 10,000 fully-loaded U.S. aircraft carriers. Energy Education compares a gigatonne to 5.5 million blue whales; 3 million Boeing 747 jets; 2 million International Space Stations or 20,000 RMS Titanic ships.
  • In September 2021, BT announced a new net zero target of 2030 for its own operational emissions, and 2040 for its supply chain and customer emissions. The company previously planned to be net zero by 2045.

All data was sourced from either publicly available data, BT’s data, or work produced in association with Accenture. The research was cross-checked by subject matter advisors from across both companies and validated against historical trends.

About BT

BT Group is the UK’s leading telecommunications and network provider and a leading provider of global communications services and solutions, serving customers in 180 countries. Its principal activities in the UK include the provision of fixed voice, mobile, broadband and TV (including Sport) and a range of products and services over converged fixed and mobile networks to consumer, business and public sector customers. For its global customers, BT provides managed services, security and network and IT infrastructure services to support their operations all over the world. BT consists of four customer-facing units: Consumer, Enterprise, Global and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Openreach, which provides access network services to over 650 communications provider customers who sell phone, broadband and Ethernet services to homes and businesses across the UK.

For the year ended 31 March 2021, BT Group’s reported revenue was £21,331m with reported profit before taxation of £1,804m.

British Telecommunications plc is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

For more information, visit www.bt.com/about