How the ICT sector can help meet the UK’s Carbon Budgets

Posted by Niall Dunne on 14th January 2016


The conversations held at the Paris Climate Conference (COP21) and the role played by business in delivering a successful outcome have shown that leading companies are keen to engage with governments around the world on practical ways to deliver the mechanisms for positive climate action. In the UK, our government has set legally binding targets to cut the UK’s annual carbon emissions by 50 per cent (from 1990 levels) by 2025 and at least 80 per cent by 2050.  They are welcome and ambitious targets, but how will we get there?

At BT, we understand the power of communications to make a better world and our recent Report, The Role of ICT in Reducing Carbon Emissions in the UK highlights a point that has been of chief importance to us for years and is even more relevant now: information and communication technology (ICT) stands at the heart of the fight against climate change. Our Report, undertaken with Accenture, shows that significant carbon emission savings and economic benefits can be created by applying ICT solutions to improve the efficiency of different areas of our economy such as manufacturing, agriculture, energy, health and transport.

The role of ICT in helping the UK meet the specific targets set by the fourth and subsequent carbon budgets is a significant one. Research shows that ICT could deliver a 24% reduction in UK carbon emissions by 2030, some 12 times the carbon footprint of the ICT sector itself. This is the equivalent of taking 26 million passenger cars off the road between now and 2030. 

The economy also stands to reap substantial rewards from bolstering the role of ICT. Increasing its use will create £122 billion in economic value in the UK between now and 2030, with services such as e-health, public transport information, and the use of cloud platforms all playing their part. Cloud based services and applications increase server utilisation, reducing energy use from everything from surfing holiday sites to e-healthcare provision.  According to a recent Report by CDP, offsite servers have the potential to prevent 85.7 million metric tons of annual carbon emissions by 2020. 

And using the power of eco-design and circular economy principles, we have the potential to make ICT hardware much more energy efficient, thereby providing further savings in energy and carbon emissions. 

There is an immediate opportunity for the technology sector, and more specifically the ICT industry, to make a game-changing contribution to the reduction of carbon emissions. We’re committed to use the power of communications to not only deliver practical ways to help us live and work more sustainably, but also to use these tools to help the world collaborate, learn and scale solutions so we can all enjoy the low carbon future which leaders in Paris committed to deliver.  

Niall Dunne is Chief Sustainability Officer at BT Group.