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A greener future

The UK was one of the first countries in the world to enshrine in law a net zero target for carbon dioxide. Since then, it has rightly put sustainability at the heart of its recovery plans, promising to “rebuild greener”.

Achieving these goals will require a multi-pronged approach, from investing in renewable energy and green infrastructure to fully realising the potential of smart grids and electric vehicles. And as host of the upcoming 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), the UK also has the unique opportunity to lead the world and shape global action on tackling climate change.

Here at Ericsson, we believe 5G has an instrumental role to play in creating a greener future.

5G and sustainability

To meet its environmental targets, the UK will need to significantly reduce carbon emissions across industries. 5G’s mix of high speed, low latency, reliability and real-time positioning provides the platform for reducing the emissions footprint of countless industrial processes. By enabling companies to handle industrial tasks remotely and capture far more data on the energy consumed by their activities, 5G allows for significant reductions in CO2 emissions.

According to the Exponential Climate Roadmap, digital technologies – including 5G - have the potential to directly reduce fossil fuel emissions by 15% by 2030, supporting greater sustainability in industries including transport and logistics, buildings, manufacturing, mining, and food and agriculture. Combined with cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence and mobile edge computing, 5G has the potential to be a leading player in the sustainability revolution.

Case Study - Mining automation and the reduction of carbon emissions

5G also has an important contribution to make to the UK’s energy networks themselves. Numerous technologies that will facilitate the transition to cleaner energy, including smart grids and smart meters, require the secure, real-time and large-scale collection and transfer of data enabled by 5G. Virtualised and decentralised “intelligent” energy networks underpinned by 5G technology could make today’s highly centralised and inefficient systems a thing of the past.

The telecommunications industry also needs to become more sustainable, by cutting its own emissions and seeking to draw on renewable sources for its energy needs.

Ericsson’s contribution

At Ericsson, we continuously strive to improve the environmental performance of our products, minimise the negative impacts of our own operations, and maximise the wider environmental benefits resulting from the implementation of our technology.

We reduced our carbon footprint by nearly 50% between 2012-2016, and we are on track to reduce an additional 35% by 2022. Looking ahead, we’ve set ourselves the ambitious target of being carbon neutral by 2030 across our UK and global operations.

And through our pioneering research on “breaking the energy curve”, we’ve shown how 5G networks can be deployed without increasing energy consumption.

Ericsson’s “breaking the energy curve” approach (Source: Breaking the energy curve: An innovative approach to reducing mobile network energy use, 2020)

Ericsson’s “breaking the energy curve” approach (Source: Breaking the energy curve: An innovative approach to reducing mobile network energy use, 2020)

A chance to lead the way

Through its plans to create a greener future and as host of the upcoming COP26 in Glasgow, the UK has the chance to lead the global effort against climate change in both word and deed.

Alongside investment in green energy and infrastructure, Ericsson believes that the rapid and comprehensive deployment of 5G can play an important role in achieving the UK’s sustainability targets. COP26 provides the perfect opportunity for the UK and other leading global nations to join forces in unlocking the potential of the technology to create a cleaner and greener world.