In France, the digital sector currently represents 2.5% of the national carbon footprint. It remains little, but this share tends to increase with the exponential development of digital technology and the limited life span of many devices. Because it is all the terminals (screens, televisions or even smartphones) that are at the origin of the major part of the carbon footprint of digital in France: “64% to 92%”, indicates a report of the ecological transition agency (Ademe) and the telecoms regulator (Arcep) published on Wednesday.
In August 2020, the government entrusted Ademe and Arcep with a joint 18-month mission, aimed at measuring the environmental footprint of digital technology in France “and identifying action levers and good practices to reduce it. “.
Energy and rare materials
The study shows that terminals are responsible for the vast majority of environmental impacts (between 64% and 92%) according to about ten indicators, followed by data centers (between 4% and 22%) and networks (between 2% and 14%).
According to the different phases of the life cycle of devices (manufacturing, distribution, use and end of life), the results show that manufacturing is “the main source” of impact for the environment, due in particular to the large quantity of resources and energy to extract the necessary materials.
2.8 million refurbished phones sold in 2020
Among the possible ways to reduce the ecological footprint of digital technology, the authors of the study recommend, for example, the reconditioning of smartphones.
“On average, acquiring a refurbished mobile phone reduces the annual environmental impact of 55% to 91% (depending on the impact categories) compared to the use of a new smartphone”, emphasizes the ADEME.
“In 2020, with sales estimated at 2.8 million units, the use of refurbished smartphones by the French allows savings of approximately 229,000 tonnes of raw materials and 70,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent”, adds -she.
Based on this initial work, Ademe and Arcep have also announced that they have launched an analysis of the future impacts of digital technology in 2030 and 2050 based on four scenarios. The results are expected in May 2022.