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 percent 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 percent 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 percent 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 percent of the key actors within each sector join the Race to Zero and commit to transforming their sectors, consistent with Climate Action Pathways.

UN High Level Climate Champion for COP26, Nigel Topping, 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.”

The GSMA has launched 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 percent of global mobile connections and 65 percent of industry revenues have now committed to science-based targets

    36 percent of the mobile industry by revenue and 31 percent 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 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 percent of the world’s mobile connections and 80 percent 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 percent of carbon emissions globally, it enables carbon reductions in other sectors that are 10x larger, equivalent to approximately 4 percent of global emissions

    5G networks are built with network energy efficiency in mind; 5G’s specification calls for a 90 percent 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 percent cut.

Turkcell announced its commitment to use 100 percent 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, and more operators are committing to renewable electricity targets.