THE next generation of broadband and mobile technology will play a critical part in helping us achieve challenging climate change targets, according to the head of the Scotland 5G Centre.

Julie Snell said that as a result of Covid-19 restrictions, we have travelled and consumed less and witnessed a welcome slowing of the depletion of Earth’s finite resources – so a glimmer of light in the darkness of coronavirus that can make us feel a bit more optimistic about the future.

As our way of life has changed and altered how we buy goods and services, we have seen companies rethink their interactions with customers and how the supply chain meets

online demand.

However, Snell said few of our activities would be possible without digital technology and connectivity and, with 12 months to go until the UN Climate Change Conference – COP26 – in Glasgow, it could almost be said the planet itself is setting the agenda for this landmark event. She told The National: “As chair of the Scotland 5G Centre, I know that 5G technology and innovation will have a critical role in helping us to achieve challenging

climate change targets.

“With some 30,000 people expected to arrive in the city of Glasgow, Scotland’s expertise in digital and green technologies will be on show like never before.

“The opportunity for our innovators to connect with those planning the direction and effectiveness of the global climate change programme cannot be underestimated. More people may also attend remotely, so good quality digital connectivity will help to make this the cleanest United Nations conference of the parties since its

inception in 1994.”

Snell said one of her centre’s key focus areas will be highlighting that the new networks are designed to be more energy efficient than their predecessors, a claim borne out by research from the University of Zurich. This suggested that, by 2030, data transmitted over a 5G network should result in around 85% fewer emissions per unit than on today’s mobile networks.

Another focus would be the “Internet of Things” (IoT) where hundreds of devices – household and industrial – can be connected via 5G.

However, access to primary healthcare was probably the most important example as NHS services adapt to digital technology at an extraordinary rate: “In December 2019, NHS Digital reported that just 15% of 23 million primary care appointments during the month had taken place by phone or online.

“By April 2020, 49% of appointments during the month were by phone or online. And by May many GP practices were reporting that 90% or more of appointments were taking place virtually. And this pace and scale of change is being replicated across many other sectors.”

She said that while we changed our behaviours, businesses too had to face the challenge and proactively manage climate change risks

and pressures.

“We need more climate champions in the private sector to make the case that acting on climate change makes good business sense; history has shown us the companies that invest in innovation throughout a crisis outperform their peers during recovery.

“Those who are yet to be connected remain cut off from the benefits that so many have taken for granted and they are falling further behind.

“For large areas of rural Scotland, we have much, if not more to gain by being in the vanguard that works to close the digital gap. And COP26 provides a perfect opportunity to do just that.”