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Is 5G the Catalyst Needed to Fight Climate Change?

5G Graphic
08 November 2021 | Updated 09 November 2021

The accelerated roll-out of 5G connectivity across Europe and the UK will have an immediate and catalysing impact in reducing CO2 emissions, according to a new study commissioned by Ericsson.

As European nations ramp up efforts to address climate targets, a new Europe-wide analysis finds that implementing 5G technology across four high-emitting sectors - power, transport, manufacturing, and buildings - could create the same saving that would be achieved by removing 35 million cars. That’s one in seven cars on Europe’s roads. The study reports that at least 40 percent of the EU’s carbon reduction solutions, up until 2030, will rely on fixed-line and mobile connectivity.

These solutions, such as the development of renewable energy generators, could reduce EU emissions by 550 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (550MtCO2e), which is nearly half of the emissions created by the entire EU energy supply sector in 2017,  and 15 percent of the EU’s total annual emissions in 2017, the year chosen as a benchmark for the analysis.

Adding in the savings from applying 5G to the four high-emitting sectors would bring the total emissions reduction to nearly 20 percent of the EU’s total annual emissions in 2017. The equivalent of the total annual emissions of Spain and Italy combined.


"It is difficult to see how [net-zero] targets will be met unless the roll-out of digital infrastructure across Europe accelerates to match that of other leading countries and regions in the developed world."


– Börje Ekholm
President and CEO, Ericsson


Europe’s Lagging Progress on Climate Targets


Despite the potential at stake, new forecasting of 5G roll-out from the annual Ericsson Mobility Report paints a concerning picture for Europe.

At the end of 2020, 5G covered around 15 percent of the world’s population. In 2027, just three years before global emissions will need to have halved to stay on track to limit global warming to 1.5ºC, new forecasts predict that global roll-out will still only be at around 75 percent.

Significantly, North America and North East Asia are estimated to enjoy more than 95 percent population coverage by 2027. In contrast, Europe is estimated to be significantly behind its economic competitors with more than 80 percent population coverage.

Prior to COP 26, the annual conference of parties to discuss sustainability targets, the event in Glasgow was marred by protests that not enough is being done and that Net Zero progress and deadlines are aiming too low. Joshua Farnsworth, Carbon Reduction Engineer for Tunley Engineering, outlined the concerns and considerations that surround the official narrative. However, can nationwide infrastructure improvements such as increasing 5G building developments actually make a difference?

Ericsson has become a role model by investing heavily in energy-efficiency-led R&D - and product and solution development - across all technology portfolios to offer customers the most sustainable alternatives for their network modernisation strategies.


Ericsson’s 5G Smart Factory


Ericsson’s 5G Smart Factory manufacturing complex in Lewisville, Texas, USA, was built with end-to-end environmental sustainability best practice as a top priority. Ericsson’s own energy-efficiency 5G solutions are operational at the site.

The factory was designed to utilize 24 percent less energy and 75 percent less indoor water usage, avoiding 97 percent operational carbon emission, than comparable buildings.

The 5G Smart Factory has been awarded twice in 2021 by the World Economic Forum (WEF) for its global leadership in next-generation Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) manufacturing and sustainability achievements.  

Börje Ekholm, President and CEO, Ericsson, says: “The EU and UK have set ambitious targets to reduce carbon emissions that will require transformational shifts across society. This new analysis demonstrates that connectivity, and specifically 5G, is vital to achieving these decarbonisation targets. It is difficult to see how these targets will be met unless the roll-out of digital infrastructure across Europe accelerates to match that of other leading countries and regions in the developed world.

“At Ericsson we view sustainability as a vital responsibility, not an optional extra. This is why the role that limitless connectivity has to play in driving a sustainable future is a fundamental part of Ericsson’s company vision. We will continue to invest heavily, not just for our customers through energy-efficiency products and solutions, but in our own operations, just as we have done at our 5G Smart Factory in the US. It is a great example of the emission saving results that can be achieved through implementing 5G manufacturing.”

Ekholm adds: “At present, with 5G roll-out, Europe is strolling towards a more digital, low-carbon future, while other regions are sprinting in the same direction. Policymakers and regulators have a major role to play here by realizing the competitive economic, social and sustainable potential of 5G and working speedily together to clear practical, regulatory and financial obstacles so that people, businesses, industries and societies right across Europe can enjoy the benefits.”

Take a look at the Environment & Sustainability category in our Spotted Cow Media Business Directory to interact with organisations that offer ethical services, as well as conscious asset, supply and facilities management.

Picture: a 5G connectivity graphic.

Article written by Bailey Sparkes | Published 08 November 2021


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