Arcep and Ademe unveil their report on the impact of digital technology on the environment

The conclusions of the telecoms regulator and the ecological transition agency remind us that the sector will have to make great efforts in the relatively near future.

The Ecological Transition Agency and Arcep, telecoms regulator in France, have joined forces to propose an ecological assessment of digital in France. They produced an edifying document, which reminds us once again that the current situation of this sector is very far from being viable in the long term.

In France, the digital sector represents approximately 2.5% of the total carbon footprint. A figure that might seem insignificant, but which continues to increase; ADEME specifies that there is no other sector where the carbon footprint is increasing so rapidly, which testifies to a very worrying dynamic.

Moreover, the carbon footprint is far from being the main concern of the digital sector. We must also take into account the impact of some 20 million tonnes of waste produced each year by this industry. The study also mentions a whole range of parallel problems, such as the progressive depletion of natural resources. In France, each person owns an average of 15 connected devices, which would correspond to the exploitation of approximately 930 kg of raw materials with all the consequences that this implies.

Smartphones, PCs, and other terminals at the heart of the problem

According to the study, the main responsible for this environmental impact would be the user terminals. This generic name globally refers to all consumer electronic devices, from smartphones to computers and televisions. The two institutions estimate that these terminals would be directly responsible for 64 to 92% of the environmental impact of the digital sector.

A situation that is all the more problematic as the solution already exists, and is even well known. Arcep and Ademe recall that the only solution would be to drastically increase the lifespan of terminals. And for that, all the actors must mobilize together. It starts with the manufacturers, who must make efforts at the design stage to offer devices that are resistant, repairable, and produced from materials from responsible sources.

Obviously, intermediaries and service providers also have a role to play, particularly in the collection of environmental data and the establishment of public databases. This is the only way to be able to refine the different models, which will then make it possible to determine the most relevant procedure to follow. They should also make efforts to encourage the repair and recycling of these products. At the same time, the two agencies are also encouraging users to adapt their practices to this situation, an essential condition for hoping for large-scale change.

All of the findings, conclusions and proposals of the two agencies are available at this address.

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