BT Group has brought forward the date it will curb its own carbon emissions by an additional fifteen years.

The pledge from the former UK telecoms incumbent comes after a landmark UN climate report warned that global heating is irreversible, and urgent action is needed to reduce emissions.

BT has said it will bring forward its net zero target from 2045 to 2030 for its own operational emissions, and 2040 for its supply chain and customer emissions.

Carbon emissions

BT has been seeking to reduce its carbon emissions for a long while.

As far back as 2010 for example, BT pledged 80 percent carbon cut by 2020.

Its 2010 sustainability review found that BT had achieved a 54 percent reduction in the carbon intensity of its global business in comparison to its 1997 baseline year.

A year later in 2011, BT then extended its pledge to reduce its carbon emissions across all operations by demanding that its suppliers have similar carbon reduction agreements.

But achieving this has been difficult.

Since 2016, BT has reduced the carbon emissions intensity of its operations by 57 percent and has reduced supply chain emissions by 19 percent over the same timeframe.

Zero target

Now BT has announced that it has set a new 2030 net zero target (from 2045) for its own operations and a 2040 net zero target for its supply chain and customer emissions.

The carrier has also pledged to cut the emissions intensity of its business by 87 percent by the end of March 2031 and has set targets in line with the most ambitious aim of the COP21 Paris Agreement – linking its targets to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

Then in 2020, BT announced that it had completed the switch to 100 percent renewable electricity worldwide and pledged to transition the majority of its 33,000 strong commercial fleet to electric or zero carbon emissions vehicles by 2030.

BT said that in order to meet these new ambitious targets, it will work closely with its customers and suppliers, and will press ahead with plans to retire legacy networks such as the 3G mobile network by 2023.

BT also intends to retire the public switched telephone network (PSTN) by the end of 2025.

Climate emergency

“As the world looks to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, we must remember that the global climate emergency hasn’t gone away,” said Andy Wales, chief digital impact and sustainability officer at BT. “BT is committed to climate action and today’s announcement will see us not just deliver on our public commitments to date but exceed them.”

“Getting our own ‘BT’ house in order isn’t enough though,” said Wales. “We must broaden the conversation around climate change by getting households up and down the country talking about it and helping them understand what they can do to help. That’s why I’d encourage all of our customers, colleagues and communities to get involved, by holding their own Sofa Summit, looking at the small, sustainable changes they can make.”

BT said its commitment to reducing its carbon intensity will help the UK Government meet its target of net zero emissions by 2050.

The carrier is also calling on companies to take similar steps, setting their own ambitious but realistic net zero targets for 2050 at the latest.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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