Evolution of Sustainability Indicators for Next-Generation Radio Network Technologies

Climate change is the defining issue of our time and one of the greatest challenges for humanity to address. As the world starts to experience the negative impacts of climate change — including record-breaking heatwaves, floods, and storms — climate science is clear: To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, humanity needs to reduce global emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050 or earlier if possible. Net zero is a future state achieved by cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to as close to zero as possible, with any residual emissions re-absorbed from the atmosphere by technological or natural processes. According to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global temperatures have already risen by 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels in some areas of the world, which is very close to the Paris Climate Agreement of limiting global temperature rise below 1.5 C. Humanity has a narrow window of opportunity to act and create a sustainable future.

The Information Communication Technology (ICT) ecosystem has developed a collaborative pathway to reach net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest. This net zero pathway encompasses the entire ICT value chain, including emissions within direct operational control (Scope 1) and indirect emissions (Scope 2) from the generation of purchased electricity, as well as emissions from products, during manufacturing, and transportation (Scope 3). As the ICT industry collaborates on the research, development, standardization, and introduction of next-generation radio access technologies, environmental sustainability must be at the forefront of all decisions throughout this lifecycle. The objective of this white paper is to provide recommendations for operational key performance indicators (KPIs) that the ICT industry can use to benchmark progress toward achieving environmental sustainability and climate action goals.

This white paper discusses current and future environmental sustainability KPIs, as well as technological enablers critical for the transition from Sustainability-Aware to Sustainability-Native next-generation wireless technologies. It also introduces three crucial dimensions — Observability, Choice, and Circular Economy — that provide an enhanced approach for implementing KPIs that ensure integration of environmental sustainability principles in design and operation of next-generation wireless technologies.

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