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POLICY | 18 March 2021

Green digital sector

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

© iStock by Getty Images 1085637010 Eva Almqvist

Europe’s future depends on how we implement green and digital solutions in our administrations, businesses and homes, neither can succeed without the other. Digital technologies can help us build a sustainable society and reduce our energy consumption. At the same time, we need to ensure that digital technologies do not consume more energy than they save.  

The Commission is looking at ways we can reduce energy consumption in the digital sector. At present, this accounts for between 8-10% of our energy consumption, and 2-4% of our greenhouse gas emissions.  

However, small changes can make a big difference. For example:  

  • Increasing the lifetime of a smartphone by just one year is equivalent to removing one million cars from our roads 

  • Using digital to help model the energy consumption in buildings can reduce their energy use by up to 17% 

  • Switching to 5G networks could reduce energy consumption by up to nine times compared to 4G 

  • Introducing smart mobility can reduce transport emissions by up to 37%  

  • 40% of the workforce teleworking for two days a week can save 5.4 million tonnes of CO2 emissions 

  • Using AI and robotics in agriculture can reduce fuel use that accounts for 12% of Europe’s emissions 

  • Digitising energy grids can optimise energy use of renewable energy sources and reduce overall consumption  

The Commission is reviewing existing legislation and introducing new measures to achieve these goals and more. It is also exploring voluntary and binding measures to help companies become climate neutral and use more renewable resources. For example, on Digital Day 2021, digital companies came together to form the European Green Digital Coalition, a Commission initiative focused on action to: 

  • invest in the development and deployment of greener digital technologies & services that are more energy and material efficient,  

  • develop methods and tools to measure the net impact of green digital technologies on the environment and climate by joining forces with NGOs and relevant expert organisations, and 

  • co-create with representatives of others sectors recommendations and guidelines for green digital transformation of these sectors that benefits environment, society and economy. 

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