The front-page news proves how the world is responding to the two fiercest battles of our time: pandemics and accelerating global warming. Although we are starting to get rid of the pandemic, no corner of the world is “immune” to the destructive consequences of climate change.
Photos of recent unprecedented weather events-floods, extreme heat, wildfires-shocked us. Reversing the ecological crisis is beginning to become a matter of life and death. In any case, the imperative is to take action.
The European Commission hopes to set an example through its ambitious “green agreement” agenda-and hopes the rest of the world will follow suit. President Ursula von der Leyen believes that the dual transformation of green and digital is the key pillar of the post-Covid19 recovery. The future is smart and sustainable-both are two aspects of the same coin: without digitization, there is no climate neutrality.
The ICT industry is a lifeline. This applies to responding to pandemics and to making Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. Only by expanding European action in the field of digitalization can we achieve these ambitious climate goals.
Scientists agree that the ICT sector can help reduce more carbon dioxide2 The amount of emissions is greater than the amount produced by itself. According to a recent study by BCG, widespread adoption of digital solutions can reduce carbon emissions by as much as 15%.
Key drivers include, for example, a 30% reduction in emissions through smart cities and a 30% reduction in emissions through the digital transformation of the transportation sector.
As Deutsche Telekom, we help European customers save 331% (or four times) of carbon dioxide2 More emissions than we as a company-our networks, data centers and cloud products, as well as smart applications for cities, factories and homes.
Last year, the positive CO2 impact brought to customers by using our products and solutions reached nearly 38 million tons.
We want to be the leading telecommunications company in Europe-and this is also true in terms of sustainability. This is why we have raised our own climate goals and lead by example. Sustainability is part of our group strategy and executive board compensation. By 2025, we will achieve climate neutrality for direct and indirect emissions, and by 2040 we will achieve climate neutrality for all emissions along the value chain.
Starting this year, 100% of Deutsche Telekom’s electricity comes from renewable energy sources. And this is on a global scale.
We continue to move towards a circular economy by providing equipment leasing models or recovering old equipment.
Together with other major European telecommunications providers, we have launched an industry-wide ecological rating to assess the environmental impact of the entire process of mobile phone manufacturing, use and disposal, and to make this process transparent to consumers.
All T-brand equipment newly launched in Germany uses sustainable packaging, and we will expand it to our European footprint next year.
Deutsche Telekom is also Europe’s leading fiber optic and 5G company. Fiber optics and 5G are the most energy-efficient network generations—especially when we consider the rapid growth of data traffic. During the pandemic, digital infrastructure proved to be the backbone of European society, education and economy.
Communication networks have become as important as the supply of water, electricity and food. They will retain this key role in the post-Covid world.
Therefore, the rapid rollout of optical fiber and 5G is one of the most important infrastructure policy challenges of our time. According to the European Union’s digital ten-year goal, by 2030, all European households should have a gigabit connection, and all densely populated areas should be equipped with 5G.
The European Union estimates that the required network investment will increase by 300 billion euros. This amount will be mainly borne by private companies.
To this end, we must make such investments more attractive and sustainable. The department needs more support and flexibility to improve cost efficiency: a more flexible network sharing and cooperation framework can significantly reduce network deployment costs.
In addition, it is necessary to share the burden of investment in a more equitable manner with those who benefit from a fast and flexible network.
For example, during the crisis, the demand for online services, especially video traffic, surged and was further promoted. Today, approximately 80% of the data on our network is generated by less than 12 large global Internet companies. Their data is often sent over the Atlantic unnecessarily.
Although they are getting more and more financial returns from our network, their willingness to contribute to network costs is close to zero. From an economic efficiency point of view, this is neither sustainable nor does it provide an incentive for more efficient use of network capacity to save energy and reduce carbon footprint.
Connectivity and green transition are two aspects of the same coin. No matter how we flip a coin, what we do or not do in one area will have a strong impact on another. They need to act together.
As Deutsche Telekom, we continue to improve the energy efficiency of networks and data centers, and we are clearly committed to the goal of green transactions.
As the industry has already done a lot of work, possible new legislation must consider best practices that have proven themselves in practice. It must comply with other EU policy goals, such as the Digital Decade and the goal of achieving digital sovereignty, including the European cloud ecosystem.
We need a framework to maximize the supporting role of digital infrastructure and promote the deployment of sustainable, green networks.
There is no doubt that the challenge is daunting and the stakes are high. However, I believe that with the joint efforts of all relevant stakeholders, we will try to stop pushing the environmental limits of our planet. In one of the largest economic transformations, our telecommunications industry will play an important role as a promoter and engine of European green economy, social stability and sustainable growth.
We collectively possess the required knowledge, ability and technology. Let us work together to make the Green Agreement the most valuable legacy left to future generations.
No matter now or forever, there is no Plan(et) B.