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Carbon Trust Teams Up with Tech Giants to Tackle Climate Impact of Connected Devices

The group will develop the industry’s first specification for measuring, accounting for and decarbonizing the emissions associated with consumer use of connected devices.

Tech giants Amazon, Meta, Microsoft, Samsung and Sky Global have joined forces with climate consultancy the Carbon Trust to tackle emissions stemming from our addiction to internet-connected devices.

The group has formed a secretariat, led by the Carbon Trust, to develop the industry’s first specification for measuring, accounting for and decarbonizing the emissions associated with connected devices while being used by customers.

Globally, connected devices — which include any device that can connect to another or a network via the internet — have an annual electricity consumption similar to that of France. This includes devices such as phones, speakers, laptops and smart home appliances — which combined used 500TWh of energy in 2020. As the number of these devices increases globally, as well as demand for data, reducing their energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions is becoming a key focus for the industry.

A device’s use phase, or the time it spends being used by the consumer, accounts for up to 85 percent of its total carbon footprint throughout its lifecycle — so, effectively tackling it is a critical component of a credible climate action plan for any device manufacturer. Many of these devices can remotely report energy use, providing an opportunity to significantly improve accuracy of energy consumption estimates.

“The connected device industry is innovative, advanced and ambitious. It has a critical role to play in net-zero progress,” says Carbon Trust Managing Director Hugh Jones. “This product-level approach will provide an open, credible and united methodology on device data measurement to help drive down use-phase emissions across the sector. We are excited to be at the forefront of this cross-industry collaborative effort. If you are a device manufacturer or retailer that would like to get involved in the development of the methodology, please get in touch.”

This latest joint commitment demonstrates the industry’s desire to better understand and account for these emissions in a standardized way. The group aims to produce an accurate baseline for reporting energy efficiency improvements and establish rules for matching electricity consumption with renewable energy generation, as well as applying technology to optimize energy use of connected devices by consumers. This means that a significant portion of the 500TWh could be reduced and additional renewable electricity capacity created. Companies will then be able to track the impact of these measures, leading to effective decarbonization over time.

“Amazon has long been committed to the reduction of carbon emissions, and this secretariat opens a pathway for our industry to better measure and further work on decarbonizing the use phase of devices,” says Maiken Moeller-Hansen, Director of Energy and Sustainability at Amazon Devices and Services. “We look forward to working with both Carbon Trust and the founding members and encourage more companies to join us in this effort.”

Development of the secretariat officially begins in September 2022. The secretariat is open to new members for a limited period. It is expected to be completed in 2023 when the specification will be made publicly available to support an industry-wide drive towards net zero.