eco Chair of the Board Oliver Süme: “Sustainability and digitalisation are two sides of the same coin – digital technologies and applications are part of the solution to achieve the climate goals.”
- The study conducted by eco and Arthur D. Little examines the impacts of digital transformation on resource efficiency and CO2 emissions across industrial, urban and rural sectors
- Use of digitalisation levers in these sectors can lead to CO2 savings of 163 megatonnes by 2050
- Another 104 Mt less in emissions due to latest technologies for data storage and transmission
- Expansion of high-performance digital infrastructures is essential to realise the predicted CO2 savings potentials
In order to achieve the climate goals of the German government and climate neutrality according to the Paris Agreement 2050, digital infrastructures as well as digital services and technologies are a vital part of the solution. This is shown by a study now published by eco – Association of the Internet Industry in cooperation with Arthur D. Little and the Alliance for the Strengthening of Digital Infrastructures in Germany, which was founded under the umbrella of eco.
The study forecasts CO2 emissions for Germany in 2050 and compares them with the CO2 savings potentials through the consistent introduction and use of digital technologies and services in the industrial, urban and rural sectors. Accordingly, digitisation levers in these sectors will enable CO2 savings of 163 megatonnes by 2050. This corresponds to approximately 20 percent of the projected total emissions for Germany in 2050. In the areas of data storage and transmission, it is projected that there is an additional potential for savings of 104 megatonnes, leading to a total reduction in CO2 emissions of 30 percent by 2050.
“European policy must treat digitalisation and sustainability as two sides of the same coin and promote the potential of the Internet industry for achieving sustainability goals accordingly and use it in joint consultation with the industry,” urges Oliver Süme, eco Chair of the Board. Digital technologies and applications, particularly Internet of Things (IoT) scenarios, offer significant potential for achieving a highly efficient CO2 balance across various sectors.
Politicians are responsible for collaboratively developing holistic and consistent concepts in close cooperation with the industry to fully exploit this potential for a sustainable digital future.
In particular, the swift growth of connected mobility and the strengthening of Europe as a technology hub with regard to the use of innovative technologies and applications such as artificial intelligence alongside a robust digital infrastructures ecosystem will have a positive impact on the achievement of sustainability and climate protection goals in the medium term.
Digital technologies are key to saving CO2
According to the ADL sustainability model, the consistent implementation of digitalisation measures can reduce the projected CO2 emissions in Germany in 2050 by around 98 megatonnes in the industrial sector, while 43 megatonnes are possible in the urban sector and 22 megatonnes in the rural sector. “From smart grids, connected electricity meters and continuous monitoring of energy consumption to smart parking or waste systems, there are numerous technological innovations that have a significantly positive impact on the CO2 balance sheet,” states Lars Riegel, co-author of the study and Head of TMT PE & Infrastructure at Arthur D. Little. “Digital infrastructures and data centres in particular consume energy, but contribute significantly more to our positive CO2 balance than they consume!”
With the help of connected mobility solutions alone, the volume of CO2 emissions in Germany could be reduced by 14 megatonnes by 2030, which is almost 20 percent of the transport emissions forecast for 2050. Increasing emissions in urban areas could also be counteracted by holistic smart city concepts: by 2030, savings of 80,000 tonnes of CO2 per day are possible in this regard. The digital transformation also implies a substantial reduction in projected CO2 emissions for agriculture and industry. For example, IoT applications will reduce industrial CO2 emissions by 37 percent by 2050. Agricultural emissions can be reduced by 39 percent by 2050 through digital innovations.
Ecosystem of digital infrastructures is a prerequisite for achieving the climate goals
“In order to leverage the predicted CO2 savings potential, the expansion of a high-performance ecosystem of digital infrastructures is essential. This begins with a consistent expansion of fibre optics via the nationwide use of 5G technologies for mobile Internet usage. Moreover, it also focuses on the migration of data previously stored on small business servers to the cloud. High-performance data centers serve as the foundation of digitalisation in Germany, enabling various technological applications in numerous sectors of business and daily life that have a positive impact on Germany’s and Europe’s CO2 balance sheet,” notes Béla Waldhauser, Spokesperson for the Alliance for the Strengthening of Digital Infrastructures in Germany, which was founded under the umbrella of the eco Association.
The eco-balance of digitalisation is already positive today. Energy efficiency has always been in the economic interest of data centre operators. The CO2 emissions of European data centres have therefore been declining since 2015. Today, they require 12 times less energy per workload than in 2010.
However, the creation of a sustainable digital ecosystem requires the contribution of all stakeholders involved. Therefore, politicians in particular are called upon to create appropriate framework conditions and competitive factors that enable a sustainable transformation, while strengthening Germany as a digital hub. This requires, in particular, a higher availability of renewable energies for the operation of digital infrastructures and corresponding applications on a sufficient scale and at economic conditions.
The full study conducted by Arthur D. Little on behalf of eco is available for free download. “Digital Transformation for More Sustainability: The Positive Impact of Digital Technologies and Infrastructures on the Carbon Footprint of Industry and Society “
The eco initiative “#JOINTHESOLUTION: We are part of the solution – the Internet industry” illustrates the further positive potentials of digitalisation for CO2 balance, resource efficiency and sustainability goals.