Over the past five years, BT has been actively involved in collaborative research on the exploitation of digital technologies and their role in advancing Scotland’s economy and society. Our latest research demonstrates BT’s commitment to advancing Scotland’s economy, people and planet through innovation and exploitation of digital technologies.
Digital technology must be at the heart of our global fight against climate change. To outline why, along with our partners SCDI, The Royal Society of Edinburgh and ScotlandIS, BT has published Innovation Critical: Scotland’s Net Zero Mission and Climate Tech Opportunity.
We were delighted with the Scottish Government’s development of an Artificial Intelligence (AI) strategy, launched in March, which we called for in our earlier report ‘Automatic for the people?’. This sets out a vision of AI enabling us to make better use of resources and develop new, low carbon industries and is based on a principle that AI should benefit people and the planet. As we emerge from the pandemic and drive a green-growth recovery, digital technologies will have a vital role to play in Scotland’s journey to 75% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030 and net-zero by 2045.
Locking-in targets to meet the climate change challenge
BT has led on climate action for almost 30 years, and we were one of the first companies in the world to adopt science-based targets, directly linking our own goals to the overall level of reductions in emissions needed to limit the most harmful aspects of the climate crisis.
As part of the transition to a low carbon business model, we have recently announced plans to curb our carbon emissions sooner than planned, by bringing forward our net zero target from 2045 to 2030 for our operational emissions and 2040 for our supply chain and customer emissions. This is in addition to our 2016 carbon reduction target, aligned to the COP21 Paris Agreement, and we are on track to reducing the carbon emissions intensity of our business by 87% by 2030.
Since 2016/17, BT has reduced the carbon emissions intensity of its operations by 57% and by 19% from its supply chain, and 100% of the electricity that we purchase worldwide comes from renewable sources. We are also playing our part by helping our customers to reduce emissions and in 2019/20 we helped them to save 13 million tonnes of carbon, achieving our 3:1 abatement target one year early. This means that for every tonne of CO2 emitted by BT, three tonnes of customer emissions were saved. This year alone, around £5.3bn (25%) of our revenue came from carbon-cutting solutions – from teleconferencing and cloud storage to smart manufacturing and Internet of Things (IoT) technology.
And we’re going further with ambitious plans to power Scotland’s road to net zero. We’re investing in full-fibre broadband and 5G networks that will support more homeworking, smart cities and pave the way for lower carbon ways of life and work. And our new green tech innovation platform fosters breakthrough technologies to cut carbon in the public sector – including through the adoption of environmental monitoring sensors that integrate into BT street furniture through IoT solutions supporting social housing providers to reduce travel and reduce maintenance costs at the same time.
An opportunity for Scotland
Innovation Critical represents a real call-to-action and finds that Climate Tech is a global market with huge growth potential and represents a major opportunity to create green jobs, raise productivity and boost exports. It also identifies seven challenges facing the sector – from gaps in funding and skills to the need for new models of innovation to accelerate the adoption and scaling of technological solutions. It proposes ten recommendations to address them, including the launch of a new national innovation mission – the ‘Climate Tech Moonshot’ – before COP26 with the aim of achieving at least one Climate Tech unicorn in Scotland by 2025. It also makes the case for a new Climate Tech Accelerator and Cluster based on the successful FinTech Scotland model to provide enhanced and integrated funding and support.
Climate change is among the greatest challenges facing mankind, and while digital technology is just one part of the solution, it is central to the net zero future we must build. It also represents a major strategic opportunity for the Scottish economy given our ambitions, assets, and capabilities for net zero and in the data, digital and tech sectors. Scotland is a small, agile nation and has the leadership in place to become a leading innovator and exporter of technological solutions to the climate change challenge. We should embrace the immense opportunities afforded by Climate Tech and work collaboratively, and at pace, towards unleashing them.