GSMA calls for COP26 to address ‘underused’ smart tech

Ahead of the upcoming COP26 summit, the GSMA has warned that the world could miss its CO2 reduction targets if it fails to exploit the full potential of smart technology.

According to research from the telco lobby group in partnership with the Carbon Trust, rolling out smart technology across various industry sectors could fulfil 40 percent of the reduction in carbon emissions that is needed if the world is going to achieve net zero by 2050.

However, adoption is proving somewhat sluggish. For instance, only 1 percent of factories currently use connected technology, and yet its widespread adoption could reduce CO2 output in the manufacturing sector by 1.4 gigatonnes over the next nine years, equivalent to the emissions generated by producing 140 million cars.

“The risk is that without smart technology used widely, the world will miss 2050 net zero commitments,” said GSMA director general Mats Granryd, in a statement late last week. “Business leaders and policymakers must act now to harness the power of mobile technology and connectivity as a key lever in the global race to net zero.”

Indeed, the GSMA claims 65 percent of the required emissions reductions in the transport sector could be achieved by using connected infrastructure to support working from home, optimised routing of commercial haulage and shipping, and electric car charging. That would save 2.8 gigatonnes of CO2 over the next nine years, equivalent to 2.8 billion flights between New York and Paris.

In the commercial property sector, smart meters and connected heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems would contribute to a 2.2 gigatonne reduction in emissions over the same period of time.

The fourth vertical covered by the research, energy, has the potential to realise a 4 gigatonne reduction in CO2, thanks to the widespread use of connectivity in solar and wind energy grids.

“As low and zero-carbon technology evolves, people might think we will need to rely on future technology solutions to meet net zero goals. At the GSMA, we disagree. We believe that many of the smart tools and technology needed to drive down carbon emissions, especially in the energy sector, already exist – they just aren’t being used to their full potential,” said Granryd.

“This new analysis by GSMA on the enablement effect of increasing connectivity across four energy-intensive industries, builds on previous research by the Carbon Trust,” added Carbon Trust CEO Tom Delay. “It highlights the crucial role that smart and mobile technology can play in cutting carbon emissions and makes clear that much of the technology already exists – it just needs to be rolled out at scale across industries.”

The GSMA hasn’t made any specific demands of the numerous policymakers and business leaders that will soon be arriving in Scotland for this year’s UN Climate Change Conference. That’s not the objective at this stage; the aim at the moment is to drive awareness. Only later, when policymakers begin their attempts to regulate for specific outcomes, will it be necessary to get into the nuts and bolts of how to accelerate the adoption of smart technology.

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