Major U.S. operators agree to disclose climate impacts for global GSMA-led initiative

The disclosures are phase one of developing a climate action roadmap and ultimately a pathway to decarbonization for the mobile industry. (Getty Images)

The four largest U.S. carriers are among 50 mobile operators that have agreed to disclose their respective climate impacts as part of a global initiative spearheaded by the GSMA.

The GSMA said disclosures are the first phase of the project, with the goal of developing a climate action roadmap and ultimately a pathway to decarbonization for the mobile industry.

Members, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon, have agreed to release their climate impacts, energy and greenhouse gas emissions through the CDP global disclosure system.  Check the bottom of this article for the full list of participating mobile operators.

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The effort will provide full transparency for investors and customers involved in the mobile industry, according to the GSMA, which added that under the initiative many companies are revealing their climate impacts for the first time.

“As a result of these disclosures, mobile operators will be able to measure and understand their environmental impact, helping them to build sustainability into the heart of their businesses,” said Paul Simpson, CEO of CDP, in a statement.

Following the disclosures, phase two will be the creation of a way to decarbonize that’s aligned with the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), by February 2020. The GSMA said developing an industry-wide plan to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 is in line with the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C by that time.

The organization noted that no mobile industry-specific methodology to achieve this has been designed, and the initiative’s work will help provide parameters to accelerate mobile operator’s own push to set their deadlines.

The GSMA said it anticipates some companies will meet the carbon neutral target “significantly” before the 2050 deadline, but noted factors like geographic location and access to renewable energy will affect timelines for when individual operators hit the target.

Verizon earlier this year pledged to go carbon neutral by 2035 in terms of all sources of emissions owned, controlled, or purchased by the company, joining peers AT&T and T-Mobile, which each previously committed to ambitious renewable energy pledges. T-Mobile at the start of 2018 promised to use renewable electricity to meet 100% of its energy needs by 2021.

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AT&T, meanwhile, has also been incorporating climate-change models to assess potential impacts and help guide certain business decisions like cell siting. The carrier is working with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory to assess climate change risk and use data to help determine where to deploy cell tower infrastructure. AT&T also shares the climate data sets it developed with Argonne with universities and local officials to use for their own climate risk assessments.  

“Today’s announcement marks the start of a collaborative action by the mobile industry to tackle the climate emergency, demonstrating how the private sector can show leadership and responsibility in addressing one of the gravest challenges facing our planet,” said Mats Granryd, director general of the GSMA, in a statement.

Other operators that have agreed to climate impact disclosures as part of the GSMA-led initiative include: América Móvil, Axiata Group, Bell Canada, Bharti Airtel, BT Group, China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom, Chunghwa Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, DNA Plc, Elisa Corporation, Far EasTone, Globe Telecom, Inmarsat, KDDI Corporation, KPN, KT Corporation, LG Uplus, Magyar Telekom, Millicom International, MTN Group, MTS, NTT DOCOMO, Oi Móvel, Orange Group, Proximus, Reliance Jio, Rogers Communications, Singtel, SK Telecom, SoftBank Corp., Spark New Zealand, StarHub, STC, Sunrise, Swisscom, Taiwan Mobile, Tele2 AB, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Telekom Austria, Telenor Group, Telia Company, Telkom SA, Telstra Corporation, TELUS Communications, TIM Brasil, True Corp., Turkcell, Vodacom Group, Vodafone Group and Zain Group.