Global Technology Companies Set to Achieve Carbon Neutrality in 2030, Say ITU, WBA

Emma Okonji

Thirty-eight of the world’s 150 leading tech companies are on track to become carbon neutral by 2030, with several aiming to be carbon negative soon after, a report by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA), has revealed.

The new report, Greening Digital Companies: Monitoring Emissions and Climate Commitments, documented the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy use of 150 of the world’s leading tech companies.

The study strives to enable tech companies to adopt best practices, accelerate emissions reduction, and ‘green’ themselves to eliminate carbon-dioxide (CO 2) and other GHG output from their operations.

According to the report, if other digital companies would emulate those currently leading in the quest for carbon neutrality, it could make information and communication technologies (ICTs) one of the greenest sectors of the global economy. 

ITU Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao, said: “Tech companies are essential part of the global economy. This new study serves as a roadmap to drive all these companies towards net-zero emissions. This is the way to ensure today’s digital transformation accelerates climate action – and to do so before it’s too late.” 

Operational GHG emissions among the 150 companies accounted for 239 million tonnes in 2020, equivalent to 0.8 per cent of the world total. Yet digital companies – defined as those that produce and sell ICT equipment, operate telecommunication networks, and provide software and other information technology services, including data centres and cloud computing, have also become prominent in the race to eliminate harmful emissions.

Executive Director at WBA, Gerbrand Haverkamp, said: “Digital companies and their innovative nature are indispensable drivers of change to build a future that is not only technologically connected, but also fair and sustainable for both people and the planet. This report is testimony that digital companies can and must play a notable role in the race to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and invest in solutions aligned to the Paris Agreement. We hope this research can incentivise companies themselves to learn from best practices, reduce their emissions, and improve their energy efficiency across all their operations.” 

The report further said from renewable power purchases and investments in carbon capture to issuing green bonds, these companies were at the forefront of global GHG reduction efforts. Digital companies accounted for seven of the top ten largest corporate purchasers of renewable energy in 2020, making up almost half of the renewables purchased globally that year.

Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, Doreen Bogdan-Martin, said: “It is no secret that as we increase our use of technology services, networks and devices, energy consumption and emissions increase in tandem. But digital technologies can be part of the solution, too. They can directly address challenges related to climate change, help scale up renewable energy markets, support smart power grids and smart metering for buildings, and of course enable emissions reductions from our work through solutions like video conferencing.” 

Overall, the 150 tech companies covered by the study consumed 425 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity in 2020, around 1.6 per cent of the world total. Of that amount, around one third was renewable. 

Giving details of renewable energy supply challenges, the report said low- and middle-income countries frequently face energy challenges, including limited electricity access or unreliable grids, resulting in over-reliance on dirty diesel-powered generator sets.

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