The importance of using digital technologies to foster a greener economy was clearly highlighted in Article 10 of the 2016 Paris Agreement. “Parties share a long-term vision on the importance of fully realizing technology development and transfer in order to improve resilience to climate change and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions” since “accelerating, encouraging and enabling innovation is critical for an effective, long-term global response to climate change”.[1]

This logic has also increasingly appeared in the documents and speeches emanating from the institutions of the European Union. In fact, the twin digital and green transition has been identified as a priority in the EU’s Green Deal and also plays a central role in its post-Covid recovery approach.[2] It is believed that such a transition, which refers to the transformation towards a greener and a more digital society, will ultimately allow for lasting and prosperous growth.

Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) such as advanced manufacturing, advanced materials, life-science technologies, micro/nano-electronics and photonics, artificial intelligence (AI), and security and connectivity have the potential of rendering industrial processes smarter since they further automate production systems. This increased efficiency is key to developing a circular economy and making our societies more sustainable. [3]

There are practical examples to illustrate the positive effects digital tools can have on the environment: a smart city project in the City of Vienna revealed that a combination of innovative digital solutions and data analytics made it possible to reduce CO2 emissions in a large residential building by 71%, helping the city reduce its environmental footprint.[4] According to some studies, digital technologies have the potential to enable other industries save 20% of global CO2 emissions by 2030.[5]

However, for the twin transition to be completed, new technologies, greater investment and innovation are essential. While new products, services and business models are key to sustaining the EU’s industrial leadership, these should also be climate neutral and circular to ensure that the EU can pursue its environmental goals. Managing this delicate balancing act will ultimately determine whether the EU succeeds in meeting the climate and economic objectives it has set itself.

[3] Twin Transition through the Implementation of Industry 4.0 Technologies: Desk-Research Analysis and Practical Use Cases in Europe