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Shaping Europe’s digital future

Green digital sector

Europe’s digital transition goes hand in hand with the European Green Deal.

    A lightbulb on a blue background with a plant growing out of it

© image by Eva Almqvist - Getty Images/iStock

During the Digital Decade, Europe faces two important challenges: the green transition and the digital transition. 

These might seem like two distinct issues, but really, they are twin challenges: neither can succeed without the other. And, they are both equally important for Europe’s future. 

Bringing digital into our lives is helping us reduce our carbon footprint. We can join videoconferences rather than traveling to meetings, monitor how much energy our homes are consuming, and even boost sustainability in farming.  

However, we need to ensure that digital technologies do not consume more energy than they save. At present, digital technologies account for between 8-10% of our energy consumption, and 2-4% of our greenhouse gas emissions – small percentages but big numbers. 

We can make a number of changes in our digital lives to reduce our environmental impact in this area. For example, extending the lifetime of all smartphones by just 1 year would save 2.1 Mt CO2 per year by 2030, equivalent to removing 1 million cars from our roads. Switching from 4G to 5G networks can reduce energy consumption by up to 90%.

The EU is researching these opportunities and more. It will update existing laws and introduce new measures to achieve our green and digital goals for the next decade. One such measure is ensuring data centres are climate neutral, energy-efficient and sustainable by 2030 at the latest.  

The EU is also exploring voluntary and binding measures to help the private sector become climate neutral and use more renewable resources, such as the European Green Digital Coalition.

The Green Deal Industrial Plan

The European Commission proposed a Green Deal Industrial Plan to support its goal of achieving climate-neutrality by 2050 while enhancing the competitiveness of Europe’s net-zero industry.

A key pillar of the plan is ensuring the EU has access to technology, products and solutions that are key to transitioning to net-zero. These include photovoltaic cells, wind turbines, batteries, hydrogen electrolysers, carbon capture, storage equipment and more. Such products and solutions also represent a major source of economic growth and quality jobs in Europe.

To achieve this, it outlines a process to speed line investment and financing for clean tech production in Europe, which would put the EU at the forefront of the clean tech revolution. As well as looking into new ideas such as temporary flexibility in state aid rules, the plan proposes to look at how existing funds and common financing at EU level can be used to finance clean tech innovation, manufacturing and deployment.

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