Driven in part by the COVID-19 pandemic, Telefónica now plans to reach its target of zero emissions across four main markets by 2030 instead of 2050. Telefónica announced its new goal on Friday, which was World Environment Day.
Telefónica's new objective came on the heels of achieving a 50% reduction in global CO2 emissions last year, which eclipsed its original target of 2025. Telefónica's COO, Ángel Vilá, announced the new target in the context of the global COP26 Race to Zero campaign, which, with the support of the GSMA, aims to mobilize the joint efforts of companies, countries and investors to achieve a zero net carbon footprint.
"Telefónica wants to support the Race to Zero campaign to accelerate the opportunity to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible," said Vilá, in a statement. "Digitalization is essential to de-carbonize the economy and is part of the solution. The digital solutions we offer our customers, as well as the greater efficiency of our networks, are helping to reduce emissions."
One of the lessons learned during the coronavirus pandemic was companies that had embraced their digital transformations were better able to transition to work-from-home and work-from-anywhere scenarios.
Telefónica said the crisis generated by COVID-19 was also "an opportunity to accelerate, together with all social, economic and business agents, the transition to a low-carbon, greener, more prosperous and healthier economy." Connectivity has proved critical in this process, as has digitalization, which is key to the task of de-carbonizing the economy, according to the telco.
Thanks to the use of Telefónica's digital services by its customers, in 2019 alone the company avoided 3.2 million tons of CO2 worldwide, which meant that for every ton emitted it saved a total of 3.3 tons. The goal for 2025 is to avoid 10 tons of CO2 for every ton emitted.
Telefónica has been among the telecom leaders when it comes to embracing green initiatives. Last year it was the first major telecommunications company to issue green bonds.
Telefónica announced in January of last year that the green bonds had raised €1 billion ($1.14 billion) over a five-year term and that the bonds were more than five times oversubscribed.
The proceeds from green bonds, which are a relatively new segment of the bond market, are typically used to fund environmentally friendly projects. Telefónica said the proceeds of the green bond sales, with almost 50% being bought by green investors, would be used to "finance projects devoted to increasing the company's energy efficiency thanks to the network transformation from copper to fiber optic in Spain."
Also last year, Germany's Deutsche Telekom (DT) said it planned to cover all of its electricity needs with renewable energies by 2021. DT also too aim at reducing its CO2 emissions from gas, oil and other sources of energy by 90% by 2030 compared to its emission levels in 2017.
In 2019, Verizon issued $1 billion in green bonds, and planned to use the proceeds to fund various sustainability initiatives including renewable energy, green buildings, energy efficiency, and sustainable water management.