Deutsche Telekom picks up the pace on climate targets

climate impact
DT's in-house emissions targets are within reach, but eliminating indirect emissions could prove a bigger challenge. (Getty Images)

Deutsche Telekom (DT) ramped its climate action plan, pulling target completion dates for the reduction of emissions forward by as much as 10 years.

The operator said it is now aiming to achieve net-zero in-house emissions by 2025, and completely eliminate its carbon footprint by 2040 at the latest. It previously sought to reduce its own emissions by 90% by 2030 compared to 2017, and achieve the latter goal by 2050.

To hit its in-house emissions target, DT said it will continue “working systematically” to consume less energy by upgrading to more efficient network technology, optimizing its office buildings and switching to an electric vehicle fleet. It added any power it does consume will come from renewable energy providers, noting it already hit a previous goal set in March 2019 to transition 100% of its electricity usage to such sources.

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DT SVP of Group Corporate Responsibility Birgit Klesper noted in a statement that tackling Scope 3 emissions, or those outside the company’s direct control, will be “the most difficult part of our journey to net zero” but it planned to “work purposefully” with suppliers to reduce these.

For instance, DT said this might be addressed through “special contractual clauses in procurement or voluntary agreements with suppliers.” It added it will aim to offset any unavoidable emissions through carbon removal measures which actively capture CO2 from the atmosphere.

Aiming high

Operators across the globe stepped up action on environmental goals in recent years. In September 2019, more than 50 signed on to an initiative led by industry group GSMA aimed at developing a plan to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Telefónica subsequently pulled forward a goal to eliminate emissions in four markets to 2030 rather than 2050, while BT Group announced in November 2020 it successfully switched 99.9% of its electricity to renewable sources.

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DT CEO Tim Hottges said its own efforts on climate action over the past two years had already “paid off” but warned against complacency: “This is not the time to be smug and give ourselves a pat on the back, however. The data is clear: this is a decisive decade for the global climate.”