Can Decarbonisation of Media Help to Meet India’s Decarbonisation Goals By 2030?

25 Jul,2022

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By Indrani Sen


Indrani SenIt is estimated that “the global digital industry consumes so much water, materials and energy that its footprint is three times that of France or the United Kingdom.”( footprint-of-the-media-media-column/ )  The growing digital media has been steadily contributing to the change in the global climate witnessed across the world. Decarbonisation of media with help of a carbon emission calculator has been adopted as a priority for media agencies in western countries, though the issue is yet to arouse interest among the media agencies in India.


Last week, on July 20, 2022, GroupM announced the establishment of a globally scalable approach to carbon measurement. This is a major step the media arm of the WPP group is taking to deliver on its commitment to decarbonise its media supply chain by 2030, as announced earlier by WPP in April 2021. GroupM’s tool will help to calculate the carbon emission of the different elements of the media plan and make adjustments accordingly for reducing the carbon emission. Work for developing tools for calculating carbon emission by media has been going on for some time. In 2021 many agencies in UK including Mindshare and MediaCom of GroupM signed IPA’s Media Climate Charter enabling them to use a common calculator designed to measure and reduce carbon impacts of media plans, particularly the digital media plans. The question which comes up next is to what extent decarbonisation of media will help in the process of reducing the per capita carbon emission of any country?


United Nations Paris Climate Agreement (2016) sets out a path for limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees centigrade. India signed the same agreement pledging to reduce the carbon emission intensity of Indian economy by 33-35% from 2005 level by 2030. India is the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHGs), after China and the US. In 2015 our per-capita emissions statistics (2.07 CO2e) was well below the global average, but collectively our population made our share high in the global statistics.


The Carbon Brief Profile India

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Our dependence on coal power plants, large scale cultivation of rice and raising of cattle across India continue to be three major sources of greenhouse gas emissions, all of which have been rising steeply even after India signed the Paris agreement on global climate change. The melting of Himalayan glaciers and change in monsoon pattern have added to our woes, making us more venerable to climate change.


Lately, the growth of internet and digital media riding on the penetration of smartphones in India has become another area of concern for climatologists.  Compared to printing a newspaper, broadcasting over TV or Radio channels, audio and video streaming over smartphones have much higher carbon emission. Satellites also clutter up space and along with the non-recyclable parabolas create significant pollutions, yet compared to smartphones their contribution to carbon emission is insignificant.  According to a recent Eutelsat study “Between fibre, satellite or TNT broadcasting and watching TV images via the 4G network, the ratio is 1 to 100 in terms of carbon impact. The higher the quality of the video, the stronger the mobile antenna array and the greater the CO2 weight.”


India has been going through a drive for digitisation based on smartphones which accelerated during the pandemic, introduction of 5G network is underway and all predictions about future of Media and Entertainment Industry are showing high growth for digital advertising. It is doubtful if decarbonisation of media can make any effective contribution towards the overall decarbonization goals of our country. A media hype over decarbonisation of media may divert our Central Government’s attention from taking corrective measures in other important areas for achieving our decarbonisation goals by 2030.


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