How 5G Can Help Combat Climate Change


By Pete BellNov 4, 2021


According to a study commissioned by Swedish equipment vendor Ericsson, 5G connectivity could be fundamental to Europe achieving future climate targets.

The study finds that until 2030, at least 40% of the EU’s carbon reduction solutions will rely on fixed line and mobile connectivity. 5G will play a major part in this trend.

In its Connectivity and Climate Change report, Ericsson asserts that using 5G technology across four high-emitting sectors—power, transport, manufacturing, and buildings—could create annual emissions savings of up to 170 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e). 

That would equate to taking one out of every seven cars—more than 35 million vehicles in total—off the EU’s roads.

That would equate to taking one out of every seven cars—more than 35 million vehicles in total—off the EU’s roads.

Improving Logistics

Use cases given by Ericsson show how accurate, real-time routing, tracking, and monitoring of goods can lead to major improvements in the efficiency of transportation services within the logistics sector.

Global logistics firm DHL discerns that 5G is expected to revolutionize supply chains around the world over the next few years and cites research showing that nearly 90% of logistics and shipping providers feel that the lack of supply chain visibility is one of the biggest challenges in the industry today.

In addition to better business efficiency, improved connectivity will help providers reduce their carbon footprints.

Up to 55 MtCO2e per year could be saved through the use of 5G solutions in this sector alone, according to Ericsson.

Climate Benefits

Estimated Carbon Savings Made Possible Through 5G Technology Use in Four High-emitting Sectors
Sector Example of a sector-specific carbon abatement solution Estimated annual carbon abatement by 2030
Power Sensor-driven improvements in renewable energy generation and deployment Up to 75MtCO2e
Transport Improved truck utilization Up to 55MtCO2e
Manufacturing Sensor-driven efficiency improvements in factories Up to 35MtCO2e
Building Flexible and remote working enabled by 5G connectivity Up to 5MtCO2e

Source: Ericsson

EU Rollouts Need to Speed Up

However, Ericsson surmises that EU climate targets can only be met if 5G network rollouts in the region are accelerated. It forecasts that by 2027, North America and northeastern Asia will reach 95% 5G population coverage, while Europe lags behind with a figure closer to 80%.

South Korea already boasts around 90% 5G population coverage, which Ericsson says could boost its economy by more than $30 billion—or 1.5% of GDP—by 2025.

The vendor is calling on European governments to support telcos by, for example, releasing 5G frequencies and agreeing to reduce spectrum fees in return for wider deployment commitments, and increasing incentives for investment via tax credits.

As stated by Ericsson President and CEO Borje Ekholm: “The EU and UK have set ambitious targets to reduce carbon emissions that will require transformational shifts across society. This new analysis demonstrates that connectivity, and specifically 5G, is vital to achieving these decarbonization targets. It is difficult to see how these targets will be met unless the rollout of digital infrastructure across Europe accelerates to match that of other leading countries and regions in the developed world.”


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Pete Bell

Pete Bell

Pete Bell is a Research Analyst for TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database and also contributes to the daily CommsUpdate newsletter. He has a particular interest in wireless broadband and was responsible for TeleGeography’s 4G Research Service until it was integrated into GlobalComms.

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