Brits sending one less email a day would cut carbon emissions by 16,000 tonnes

UK research suggests unnecessary online chatter increases climate change

A computer screen showing an inbox full of emails
(Image credit: Mike Clarke/AFP via Getty Images)

Officials working on plans to reduce the UK’s carbon footprint have warned of a hidden threat that is increasing the country’s emissions: unnecessary emails.

As Britain gears up to host the UN COP26 climate change summit next year, “officials have been particularly taken by research suggesting that more than 64m unnecessary emails are sent by Britons every day,” the Financial Times reports.

These emails - often just one or two words long - are “pumping thousands of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere owing to the power they consume”, the paper adds.

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One official working on the preparation for COP26 told the FT that civil servants have been “looking at research suggesting that if you reduced those emails by just one a day, you would save a lot of carbon”.

Figures in Whitehall are understood to be taking the sending of short emails so seriously that the topic was included in a recent paper from the National Cyber Security Centre. It has not been elevated to ministerial level, however, Boris Johnson is pushing to make environmental plans front and centre of his agenda.

In 2019, a study by energy company OVO found Brits send more than 64m unnecessary emails every day.

The research found that if Brits sent one fewer email per day, the UK could cut emissions by more than 16,433 tonnes of carbon a year – equivalent to 81,152 flights to Madrid or taking 3,334 diesel cars off the road.

At the time, researcher Mike Berners-Lee told The Guardian: “When you are typing, your computer is using electricity. When you press send it goes through the network, and it takes electricity to run the network.

“We don’t think about it because we can’t see the smoke coming out of our computers, but the carbon footprint of IT is huge and growing.”

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