Teleworking: global warming, a new argument that pleads for 3 days a week

Trois jours de télétravail par semaine pour sauver la planète ?

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Posted Jul 18, 2022, 5:33 PMUpdated on Jul 18, 2022 at 5:38 PM

To defend teleworking, we are well aware of the argument of productivity, less that of climate change. However, the heat wave context reminds us that climate change is now. Among the avenues on the table that the government is examining in preparing its “energy sobriety”, there could be telecommuting.

During his July 14 interview, the Head of State launched the “general mobilization” on energy consumption to respond to the energy supply risks posed by the Russian war in Ukraine, but also to limit the impact of climatic disasters – such as the current heat wave and fires.

Fast and massive effect

Everyone (companies, administrations, and individuals) will be called upon to meet the objective of reducing by 10% in two years the equivalent of all that London consumed in fossil and electrical energy in 2021.

However, it turns out that the most substantial saving, according to a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) published in March 2022, would be the extension of telework to three days a week. Knowing that a third of jobs are teleworkable, we could quickly save 500,000 barrels a day in advanced economies (which represent 45% of global oil demand). These countries consumed 2.7 million barrels of oil per day to work in offices before the pandemic.

10 recommendations to reduce global oil consumption.

10 recommendations to reduce global oil consumption.IEA

Among the 10 recommendations of the report, it is even the second most important source of oil savings if it is applied wherever possible. And this, before the 10 km / hour speed limit on the highway (430,000 barrels).

Today London is one of the few countries to have encouraged teleworking after confinement, according to the IEA, but employers are free to set the conditions. The government could be tempted to reinstate an obligation for telework jobs, especially since it reduces the impact of fuel costs on employees' budgets.

“Considerable potential”, according to Ademe

Already in 2021, the English Agency for Ecological Transition (Ademe) saw in telework “considerable potential” to reduce road congestion and greenhouse gases (GHGs). “Telework makes it possible to drastically reduce travel (by 69%) and the distances traveled, going from 9 km to 5.5 km thanks to the reduction in commuting (93%) [trajets domicile-travail, NDLR] telework day »the report said.

But the positive effects don't stop there. Working remotely reduces the space and equipment needs of companies: computers, printers and photocopiers are often permanently connected and power-hungry.

Not to mention the heating and elevators which also result in significant energy consumption. Air conditioning units, on the other hand, release refrigerants, which are responsible for the increase in greenhouse gases, according to Ademe.

Teleworking is not neutral either in terms of carbon footprint

However, certain negative rebound effects characterized in 2021 by another Ademe report would reduce the environmental benefits of teleworking by 31%.

Teleworking would reduce 271 kg eq.  CO2 per year and per weekly teleworking day.

Teleworking would reduce 271 kg eq. CO2 per year and per weekly teleworking day.Ademe

There are several reasons for this observation: logically, if the teleworker is at home, he consumes more at home (heating, internet, PC, printer, lighting… or even a fan). Not to mention the potential energy-intensive space improvements: setting up a home office (purchase, work, etc.), even moving to a larger living space or even longer and further trips in long weekends by teleworking.

As in the office, teleworking requires the use of technologies, which leads to an increase in digital pollution. It is estimated that communication by videoconference generates a large video stream that produces up to 2.6 kg eq CO2 per year and per day of teleworking (source: Ademe).

But all in all, Ademe considers that the environmental balance of telework compared to work in a company remains amply advantageous.

In addition to teleworking, the government could also want, according to Les Echos, “activate certain applicable devices in the workspaces. Those, in particular, of the Energy Code which make it possible to prohibit heating above 19°C or air conditioning below 26°C”.


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