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France tackles digital pollution

Exercise is as necessary as it is difficult. As digital uses thrive, debates about increasing their environmental footprint are spreading. This is especially true since the advent of 5G, which worries part of the political sphere – especially on the left and among environmentalists – as well as many NGOs. Several studies have already emerged, and they have warned of digital pollution that threatens to increase exponentially if nothing is done to control it. But these evaluations have also been the subject of criticism, relating their methodologies and points of comparison. That is why the government has called on the Agency for Environmental Transformation (ADEME) and Arcep, the telecom regulator, to take an inventory of the ecological footprint of digital technology in France. Here’s the work these two actors gave on Wednesday, during an online press conference.

The goal is to accurately and clearly measure this ecological footprint to put numbersAs explained by Cedric O, Secretary of State in charge of Digital and Communications. This is for “Dealing with these issues” Correctly, take action to get digital “Sustainable,” added Barbara Bombelli, Minister for Environmental Transformation.

Stations account for the largest part of the carbon footprint

What comes out of this work? First of all, ADEME and Arcep decided in favor of a methodology that doesn’t just care about the carbon footprint. The latter is certainly important, but it is not enough to fully define the impact of digital technology on the environment. Other indicators are used. They are interested, for example, with the problem of depletion of minerals and metals. The study focuses on three components In the digital sector, they are terminals (smartphones, tablets, TVs, connected objects, etc.), networks (mobile and fixed Internet) and data centers. Finally, the study shows its environmental impact in different periods, from its manufacture to its use, and up to the end of its life.

The first lesson is that the digital figure represents 2.5% of France’s carbon footprint. Terminals, especially monitors and televisions, account for at least 79%, against 16% for data centers and 5% for networks. Another lesson: it is the stage of manufacturing equipment – terminals, servers or Internet boxes – which accounts for 78% of the total area. Knowing that its use weighs 20%. That is why from the beginning ADEME and Arcep have been invited to prefer all actions aimed at extending the life of peripheral devices, and not just smartphones. The two players call for the development of the refurbishment and second-hand sectors. Everything is fine here, to avoid buying new equipment when possible.

After inventory, forecast in 2030

In terms of data centers, servers are the main source of environmental impact. And that through its manufacture and uses that consume a lot of energy. As for the nets, it is their use that focuses on environmental influences.

Following the publication of this study, ADEME launched an awareness campaign, primarily digital, aimed specifically at promoting the purchase and repair of used electronic devices. The agency will continue to work with Arcep. The next phase aims, in particular, to assess the effects of the increase in the digital ecological footprint by 2025-2030. To do this, the telecom regulator intends to take advantage of a new power that will allow it to collect data from telecom operators, of course, but also from terminal manufacturers.