Australia’s biggest telco says its operations will be carbon neutral this year and it will halve its 1.3 million tonnes of yearly greenhouse gas emissions within the decade.

Telstra this week announced three major sustainability goals: To be carbon neutral in its operations this year, energy consumption equivalent to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2025, and reducing its absolute emissions 50 per cent by 2030. 

The telco says it will implement more efficient infrastructure, invest in carbon offsets, renewable energy projects and technology.

In a company post, CEO Andrew Penn called climate change the “defining challenge of the 2020s” and said Telstra needs to lead by example to balance the increasing environmental costs of digital initiatives.

Andrew Penn, CEO, Telstra. Supplied.

“The science is clear,” Penn wrote yesterday. “Climate change, driven by greenhouse gas emissions, is creating risks that impact our economy, our environment, our communities and each of us individually.” 

According to Penn, Telstra is one of the largest consumers of power in Australia, requiring around 5.9 petajoules of energy each year to provide its market-leading coverage. That consumption last year produced 1.4 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

Penn notes the increasing cost of the exponential increase in the data volume handled by the telco, which grew 26 per cent last year and is expected to triple by 2025.

The plan

The Telstra chief conceded the company does “not have all of the answers on how we will achieve” the three key goals but says Telstra is fully committed to them and shared some details. 

Penn said Telstra will upgrade inefficient equipment and accelerate the decommissioning of unneeded equipment; assist employees to manage their own footprint; encourage and support suppliers on decarbonising efforts; offer lower emission products and services to customers; and improve the climate change resilience of the Telstra network.

In a nod to the disfunction in Canberra, Penn said he was more interested in his own and Telstra’s actions on climate change rather than the federal government, which steadfastly refuses to set its own national emissions reductions targets, despite all states and territories, and an increasing amount of the private sector – including Telstra, committing to net zero emissions by 2050.

“I also said that it can be popular to comment on what others should be doing, particularly government. However, what I am more interested in is what we are doing at Telstra and what I am doing to make a difference as an individual.” 

“There is a collective and increasing sense of responsibility and urgency to act. Everyone has a role to play. The biggest risk to climate change is believing it’s someone else’s problem to fix.”

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