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The 'decarbonization' challenge

The industrial decarbonization challenge

Industrial decarbonization

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The decarbonization of industries is vital if we are to secure a livable future for all. Digital technologies, supported by 5G networks, play a pivotal role in supporting industries on that journey by cutting energy consumption, reducing material waste, and driving top-line growth. Below, we examine the need for industrial decarbonization and explore what is happening across sectors today.

What is industrial decarbonization and why is it important?

Mitigating climate change means cutting the release of destructive greenhouse gas emissions from all sources, with a particular focus on heavily pollutant sources, such as power plants, factories, and transport systems.

This means that rapid and far-reaching industrial decarbonization of all sectors will be vital if we are going to keep global average temperature 1.5°C above preindustrial levels and remain on track to meet decarbonization trajectories, in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Achieving a 1.5°C planet will require the fastest economic transition in history and in most cases a fundamental overhaul of traditional industrial processes, including how our industries are powered and the very business model itself.

Digitalization of industries is proving today that it can have a transformative impact in decarbonizing industries by creating process and energy efficiencies, enhancing automation and autonomous operations, and enabling the transition to renewable energy sources.

Carbon emissions per industrial sector

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The impact of ICT across industries

Industrial digitalization, enabled in part by 5G and other disruptive technologies such as AI, IoT, XR, autonomous vehicles, robotics, and more, serves as the bedrock of ongoing sectoral transformation and, in doing so, can make a decisive impact in mediating the shift towards more efficient, low-carbon industrial operations, as well as more sustainable consumption.

According to the Exponential Roadmap report, ‘exponential technological development can considerably reduce energy consumption and material waste in all sectors, while supporting global health, sustainability and economic goals… [as well as] enabling rapid transformation through new disruptive business models.’ It also states that: ‘digital services have potential, tenfold their footprint, to reduce energy and materials across the economy and could directly enable a third of the emissions reductions needed by 2030.’

An Ericsson Research macro analysis confirms a strong causal relationship between digitalization and decarbonization, with a 10 percent increase in mobile broadband penetration found to cause a 7 percent reduction in CO2 emissions per capita.

Learn more about the Ericsson Research macro analysis: How is mobile broadband intensity affecting CO2 emissions?

20 %
The emission reduction potential of ICT solutions in other sectors is 20% by 2030

Decarbonization by sector: What’s happening today across industries


Electricity and energy supply

The share of renewable energy is rising and forecast to account for 65 percent of global power needs by 2030. Managing this will require a more flexible and efficient energy distribution system that can accommodate a wider variety of energy production sites, handle bi-directional energy distribution, and support more advanced grid protection methods.

High performance 5G – with the ability to harness machine learning and AI – can underpin this transition to smart, data-driven grids, further securing energy distribution and keeping critical energy infrastructure online. 



Electricity and energy supply

Transport is responsible for approximately one quarter of all energy-related greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. As a major contributor, the ongoing electrification of road freight sectors can facilitate significant emissions reductions.

Mobile connectivity is a key enabler of this transition, enabling reliable data streams that connect sensors and charging points, maximizing vehicle and fleet efficiency. Emerging autonomous vehicles are also expected to radically transform the sector in coming years.




Shipping is responsible for about 2.9 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, with the risk it could rise to 10 percent by 2050 if the current trajectory continues. Digitalization through private 5G will be key to decarbonizing port operations in coming years.

Today’s advanced port use cases include AI-based processing of massive real-time data monitoring from smart sensors, 3D LIDARs and WDR cameras to improve and optimize operations. Digital twin technologies also feature prominently, enabling control staff to immerse themselves in a virtual replica of the port environment, safely interacting and managing functions through XR interfaces.  With systems, vehicles and devices fully connected, entire operational processes can also be fully automated.



Electricity and energy supply

The combination of renewable energy sources, together with connected, low-carbon, and autonomous battery-electric solutions will be decisive in reducing operational emissions of mining sectors, currently accounting for 1 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

A pervasive 5G wireless infrastructure is the cornerstone that can enable this transition through innovative use cases such as autonomous vehicles, environmental monitoring, geofencing, and massive data collection. This presents the transformative potential to enhance safety, optimize machine efficiency and agility, and allow for remote operations and maintenance.  





Manufacturing accounts for 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, with energy-intensive processes and global supply chains presenting key challenges, in addition to resource optimization,waste reduction, and operational safety.

By enabling agile, automated, and efficient production operations, private 5G lays a credible pathway for viable, scalable decarbonization of one of the world’s most pollutant industries.



Building operations account for 26 percent of global energy related emissions, comprising both direct emissions from buildings themselves and indirect emissions from energy production. The integration of wireless technologies into building management systems is transforming buildings into data-driven spaces, optimizing energy use and enabling predictive maintenance through IoT sensors, AI and more. Combined with a continued strong policy focus on building energy codes, this can enable significant emissions reductions required across the sector in coming years.

Case study


Agriculture and nature-based solutions

Agriculture and nature-based solutions

Agricultural sectors account for around 11 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, rising to 23 percent when forestry and land-use changes are added. Supported by connected technologies such as remote real-time monitoring, nature-based agroforestry solutions can contribute up to 30 percent of climate mitigation needed by 2050. When rolled out across agricultural sectors, connectivity-based solutions can also provide a vital boost to local farming communities, creating a more equitable marketplace and reducing farmland degradation through precision agriculture.


Digitalization as an enabler - Ericsson UnBoxed Office Social Series

Join our Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Stella Medlicott as we unravel how 5G is critical for the future, and listen to MIT Technology Review’s Ross O’Brien who will share the findings from his latest qualitative research on decarbonizing industries through connectivity.

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