How digital downloads can cut CO2 emissions by 96%

Whether it’s making a conscious effort to reduce the amount of plastic products purchased, or turning devices off when they’re left on standby, it’s crucial that we promote sustainability wherever possible to meet UN carbon-neutral targets by 2030. Key targets in the 2030 climate and energy framework are to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40%, while also improving energy efficiency by a minimum of 32.5%.

digital downloads

Improving energy efficiency is paramount in the games industry, with major brands like Microsoft and Sony committing to a collective 30 million tonnes reduction of CO2 emissions by 2030. But how does this relate to the consumer? For starters, the upcoming Xbox and PlayStation consoles will utilize power-saving tech wherever possible, while manufacturers will encourage gamers to purchase responsibly.

Gamers could also significantly reduce their carbon footprint by choosing to download popular game titles rather than purchasing plastic-boxed units, a new study entitled Console Carbon Footprint reveals.

This is because the plastics required to create the plastic case, coated disc and printed leaflet results in CO2 emissions of 0.39kg per game, while a digital download has a far lower carbon footprint of 0.017kg/CO2.

The games industry saw a significant increase in digital downloads in 2019, which accounted for 83% of all game sales last year. In the UK the physical sales of video games dropped by 19.8%, whilst digital sales grew by 1.1% to generate £3.17 billion in revenue.

The research also evaluated how much it would cost Sony to offset their carbon footprint, following the news that Microsoft is planning to spend $1 billion over the next four years to fund innovation in reducing, capturing and removing CO2 from the atmosphere.

To do so is expensive, with this tech costing upwards of $600 per tonne of CO2, as reported by the American Physical Society. This means that Sony would have to spend more than $6.3 billion to offset the 10.63 million carbon emissions generated over the lifetime of all products sold at the end of 2018.

digital downloads

Discussing the environmental impact of the games industry, Inger Andersen, Executive Director at the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), said: ““The video games industry has the ability to engage, inspire and captivate the imaginations of billions of people across the world. This makes them a hugely important partner in addressing the climate emergency.”

With climate change remaining a prominent issue that requires all of us to make conscious efforts to reduce our carbon footprint, it’s never been more important for gaming brands and consumers to promote sustainability in 2020.

By Emily Garner

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