i3 | May 29, 2020

New Report Tracks Industry Progress on Climate Change

Elliot Grimm

More than ever, technology is making a difference in lives across the globe. As the current COVID-19 crisis unfolds, consumers, communities and businesses are benefiting from industry innovations. Telework tools are helping companies and governments stay operational while telehealth resources are keeping patients connected with doctors and care. As the industry continues to improve the lives of consumers, it is increasingly focused on maintaining the health of our planet, too. And one of the industry’s most critical priorities is addressing the issue of climate change.

Looking at the Trends

Now, a new CTA report aims to monitor the industry’s progress by tracking its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and operational efforts to combat climate change. The 2019 Industry Report on GHG Emissions tracks GHG emissions data from CTA’s consumer tech manufacturers and service providers, presenting it both globally and in the U.S. According to the report, from 2016 to 2017, emissions from company-controlled sources including fuel combustion, transportation and heating, and upstream sources of company energy consumption such as electricity decreased by 9% in the U.S. This downward trend is reflective of industry efforts to reduce GHG emissions in its operations, which is making an impact in the US. Global emissions from electronics companies, however, increased by 2.7%. While the increase shows there is still progress to be made, industry growth from 2016 to 2017 was more than four times that (11.7%), emphasizing how emission-reducing initiatives can counteract a rapidly growing industry.

The report also looks at individual company achievements as well. Major companies including Facebook, Google and Walmart have committed to transitioning to 100% renewable energy by 2050. Companies such as Apple and AMD are focused on more efficient cloud processing and storage, which is lowering energy consumption while helping enable remote work for employees and create new e-commerce innovations.

Tracking Climate Change

The new report stems from a CTA Board of Industry Leaders’ resolution to continue climate change efforts following the spirit of the Paris Agreement, made in 2017 shortly after the U.S. announced its intention to withdraw. With the resolution, CTA committed to measuring the industry’s GHG emissions and issuing an annual report tracking CTA members’ progress.

Two notable industry initiatives have also meant big savings for consumers and the environment. Since 2012, the Set-Top Box Voluntary Agreement has saved consumers more than $5 billion in energy costs and avoided 30 million metric tons of CO2. The industry’s similar agreement for home internet equipment has reduced its average idle mode energy usage by 66% and overall met greater energy efficiency standards.

In addition to these growing energy-saving operations, industry innovation is creating more sustainable products that do more while using less. One CTA report found that even though the number of tech devices in U.S. homes increased 21% from 2013 to 2017, those devices accounted for 25% less residential energy. Another CTA study found home automation products — one of the fastest-growing categories among consumer adoption — could reduce total residential primary energy consumption by as much as 10%.

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