How GDPR is curbing carbon emissions

Despite being the bane to many business professionals, new research suggests that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) framework is assisting in the global fight to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

How GDPR is curbing carbon emissions

The number of marketing emails being sent has decreased by 1.2 billion per day since the implementation of GDPR

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was introduced in May 2018 to replace the UK Data Protection Act of 1998. The purpose of GDPR is to protect personal online data while creating common protection laws across EU member states.

While the implementation of GDPR has caused confusion for many businesses due to its complexity, new research from software solutions firm Jet Global suggests that the framework may be benefiting the planet.

Summarising a collection of data sets and studies, Jet Global estimates that the number of marketing emails being sent has decreased by 1.2 billion per day since the implementation of GDPR in May 2018.

Using Guardian findings citing carbon footprint expert Mike Berners-Lee’s book “How Bad are Bananas: The Carbon Footprint of Everything”, the carbon footprint of an email can range from 0.3g CO2e for spam to 50g CO2e for long emails with attachments. The new research estimated that the decreased volume of emails has reduced carbon emissions from sever usage by 360 tonnes per day.

Berners-Lee also noted that global data centres in 2010 accounted for 130 million tonnes of CO2e and are predicted to produce up to 340 million tonnes by 2020. Additional research estimates that it will take three average office workers’ yearly received emails to surpass the average carbon footprint of one person’s yearly activities.

Data centre of attention

Fortunately, tech companies are taking a greater interest in the energy consumption and carbon footprint of their data centres.

Vodafone data centres, for example, achieved ISO 50001 certification in just six months, a move that is anticipated to generate 5-7.5% in energy savings.

Elsewhere, Microsoft has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2030 and with the vast amount of energy that data centres use, is looking for innovative solutions to lower energy demand.

The company recently placed a small-scale centre of 12 racks sunk underwater off the coast of Orkney. Undersea cables are used to power the data centre, which has enough room to store the equivalent of five million movies worth of data.

Data centres account for 40% of Capgemini’s total emissions and 70% of energy use – but the firm’s ‘Merlin’ data centre has set a new standard for sustainability in that area. Additionally, Google is now allowing its artificial intelligence (AI) system – rather than its staff – to directly control its data centre cooling system as a way of lowering emissions and energy consumption.

More broadly, BT research suggests that investment in ICT could result in a 24% annual reduction in the UK’s carbon emissions by 2030 and help cut the European Union’s carbon emissions by more than 1.5Gt annually as corporates within the sector move to decarbonise.

Matt Mace

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