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Can digital really help to drive us towards net zero?

Profile photo of Martyn McDermott.

By Martyn McDermott

4 min read

Close angle looking up at wind turbine on neon background.

Yeah, we reckon so. And here's why.

Technology's helped us pave a path through troubled times before. And even recently. Throughout the pandemic's peak, it allowed many of us to stay connected with loved ones, continue to collaborate at work and even reduce our emissions in the process.

Albeit, temporarily.

And that's the crux of the issue; we need long-term solutions in a short space of time.

But how much time is there, exactly?

The scientific consensus is that we need to cut global CO2 emissions by about 45% before 2030. And then the longer-term goal is to reach net zero by 2050.

The good thing is: there's enormous potential for the digital sector to make a difference. According to the World Economic Forum, digital technology has the capacity to cut GHG emissions by 15 percent.

But doesn't digital have its own carbon footprint?

Absolutely. But technological advances are helping to offset this and push us in the right direction.

For example, studies suggest that 5G networks are up to 90% more energy efficient per traffic unit than legacy 4G networks.

And despite the world's growing adoption of digital devices, the ICT sector's impact on the environment remains relatively stable; it's at around 1.4% of overall global emissions. What's more, the same research revealed that the ICT sector's carbon footprint could actually be reduced by over 80% - that's if all its electricity came from renewable energy sources.

At Major, we're partnering with a number of clients that are looking to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, transitioning towards clean energy and more sustainable tech.

Sustainable tech that's driving us to net zero

Various pieces of research have suggested that electric cars are better for the environment. They emit fewer greenhouse gases and air pollutants than traditional cars and are also more environmentally friendly to produce and maintain.

However, increasing the number of electric vehicles on our roads will take a huge infrastructure change - and it's going to take a lot of time and resources.

Well, digital's the answer for powering, monitoring and maintaining these infrastructures, e.g. developing and deploying the solutions we need to roll out electric vehicle charging points at scale.

But digital's already helping to make transportation greener in other ways. For example, there are now countless ridesharing apps available. These are all designed to match people taking similar journeys, whilst radically reducing the number of cars on the road.

Speaking of numbers, the vast amount of data that's available to us now is not only having a huge impact on the solutions we build; it enables us to use our innovations responsibly. For example, the tech behind smart thermostats like Google Nest learns our habits. Then it makes small, daily adjustments that can create big energy savings - more important now than ever before.

There's also agricultural innovation which is helping to save the planet and our pursestrings - especially when it comes to reducing food scarcity and water waste. For example, more and more farmers are using sensors to monitor soil moisture levels. This means they only water their crops when necessary. In turn, this saves water and energy - whilst helping to preserve our natural resources.

The tech industry can make a difference together

Even before kicking off a project, we've got a wide array of carbon calculators that can help estimate the environmental impact of our work. This can help us make more sustainable choices before entering development.

But what if the project creeps as they often do? No problem. Although it's always preferable to make greener decisions before kicking off, there are sustainable apps like MyTree which allow you to offset your emissions via eco-friendly projects.

This is only the beginning, though.

Just as the clock is ticking on our climate commitments, technology also refuses to stand still. At Major, we believe that digital's the key to a more sustainable future. It's our purpose to find ways that'll pick the lock.

  • Climate-Positive Website - EFWA Accredited.
  • Ecologi.
  • SME Climate Hub.
  • The Green Web Foundation.