Better UK connectivity key to cutting CO2e emissions

Research reveals that improved UK connectivity could save 27.8 mega tonnes of transport-related CO2e emissions by 2035

The telecoms industry has a unique role to play in supporting businesses and industry achieve their net-zero ambitions, and for this reason should be seen as a precious ally of the Government – and what’s more, according to a report commissioned by Huawei, connectivity has a major role to play in reducing carbon emissions across various verticals – particularly transport.

The Connectivity-enabled carbon reduction in transport report, by communications industry analyst Assembly, noted that in a year in which storms, floods and wildfires have intensified around the world, the UK will host the COP26 summit in Glasgow, which brings parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The UK has world-leading ambition when it comes to reducing GHG emissions, having targeted a 78% reduction by 2035 and net-zero by 2050, but it currently lacks a plan to achieve it.

The study argued that improved connectivity can both directly and indirectly reduce this in the race to net-zero. Moreover, the transport sector could be the big carbon reduction winner from better UK digital connectivity.

Transport currently contributes more than a quarter of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions, but enhanced connectivity of vehicles on the road is one possible solution. Connected and automated vehicles will adapt to traffic light systems, decide which route to take, and avoid traffic congestion and pollution to help improve air quality in towns and cities.

The report estimates average annual emissions from commuting to be 545kg of CO2e per employee, compared with just 3.4kg if that employee collaborated solely online. It adds that improved UK connectivity could save 27.8 mega tonnes of transport-related CO2e emissions by 2035, the equivalent of taking 750,000 lorries off Britain’s roads, or more than twice the annual CO2 emissions of Greater Manchester.

By 2035, reduced emissions as a result of remote working could make up 5% of the reduction in transport emissions the UK will need to achieve if it is to stay on track with its net-zero transport objective for 2050. Assembly noted that working from home just one day a week could save 109kg of CO2e per person every year. It also predicted that journeys by train will become more efficient and appealing compared with taking the car thanks to an improved flow of services, in-seat Wi-Fi and paperless tickets.

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Summing up, Assembly noted that the faster key enabling technologies such as gigabit-capable broadband are rolled out more widely, the better-placed the UK will be to meet its targets for carbon reduction.

“The UK is rightly seen as having world-leading ambition when it comes to addressing the climate crisis and achieving net-zero,” said Matthew Howett, principal analyst and founder of Assembly.

“What it now needs is the plan to realise this. The telecoms industry should be seen as a precious ally of the Government given what connectivity can do for all verticals, but transport in particular. The pandemic has given us a glimpse of what is possible if we rely more on connectivity: it must now be central to our Covid recovery and path to net-zero.”

Huawei vice-president Victor Zhang added: “We believe that technology is where many of the answers to reducing CO2e emissions will lie, but with the climate crisis already upon us, there is no time to waste in ensuring these solutions are provided for as many as possible. The UK needs to move faster in adopting the best available connectivity technology.”

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