GREEN IT: Bill to reduce the environmental footprint of digital technology adopted in the Senate
After a year of parliamentary work, the Senate has adopted on January 12, in first reading, the bill aimed at reducing the environmental footprint of digital technology in France.
Based on the observation that the impact of digital activities on the environment is exploding, representing « 2% of our carbon footprint today » but could be « 7% tomorrow », the members of parliament have taken up the issue of regulating digital pollution.
This bill provides a framework for « the entire digital value chain », continuing the parliamentary momentum on environmental issues, notably through Law No. 2020-105 of February 10, 2020 relating to the fight against waste and the circular economy. It also complements the preliminary bill on « Climate » finalized in early January, which does not, at this stage, include measures on the digital sector. This bill was tabled in the National Assembly on January 13, 2021.
This text voted by the Senate is grounded on 4 foundations:
- Education, to « make users aware of the environmental impact of digital technology » by teaching digital sobriety: learning to design more sober digital services and to moderate their digital uses. This law could ultimately aim to impose on VOD and SVOD platforms an obligation to inform consumers of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with viewing a video, in regards of the quality chosen and the type of connection used by the consumer; the inclusion of the environmental impact of digital technology in the corporate social responsibility (hereinafter “CSR”) of companies; or the creation of a tax credit for the sustainable digitization of small and medium-sized businesses;
- Over-consumption, by limiting the renewal of digital terminals, « the main culprit in the carbon footprint of digital technology in France ».
The fight against programmed obsolescence and software obsolescence are particularly concerned by this proposal, with a more dissuasive measure. The bill would also propose to support reconditioning and repair activities by reducing the applicable VAT rate to 5.5%; while players in this sector would have to comply with a number of requirements guaranteeing the quality of the reconditioning, the effective deletion of data contained in the terminal which also indicate the countries of origin and reconditioning of the products ;
- The promotion of digital uses that are beneficial for the environment, by prohibiting, as a preventive measure, mobile plans with unlimited data access and providing for a pricing obligation at least partly proportional to the volume of data fixed by the plan, or by obliging on-demand audiovisual media services to adapt the quality of the downloaded video to the maximum resolution of the terminal. This proposal also aims to promote the ecodesign of websites by providing for the establishment of a general ecodesign benchmark with criteria for sustainable design of websites ;
- Environmental regulation, which provides that network operators must subscribe to binding multi-year commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and their energy consumption, or adding among the grounds for refusing the allocation of radio frequencies by the France’s Electronic Communications, Postal and Print media distribution Regulatory Authority (“Arcep”) the preservation of the environment.
UGGC Law Firm and its team of specialized lawyers are at your disposal to assist you, as a digital operator, in bringing your activity in line with the upcoming legislative changes.
By the IP/IT team of UGGC Law Firm
 Official summary record of January 12, 2021 – Mr. Patrick Chaize, author of the law proposal