Digital decarbonisation

How the digital sector is supporting climate action. An Implement Consulting Group study commissioned by Google.

10 October 2022

Digital solutions are embedded in our society and can support the transition to a green economy. The twin digital and green transformation is already high on the European policy agenda – and even more so against the backdrop of recent geopolitical events and the energy crisis.

But what is digital technology’s positive contribution to decarbonisation of sectors, and how decarbonised is the digital sector itself?

An Implement Consulting Group study commissioned by Google has found that digital solutions are important enablers of affordable and cost-effective climate change mitigation at scale, with a vast enabling potential. Digital technology is a general-purpose technology, and innovative digital solutions will transcend climate change solutions in countless and unimaginable ways.

The study’s findings have two main themes:

Digital decarbonisation

Four main sectors that account for two-thirds of EU’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions hold significant potential for digitally enabled climate mitigation and energy savings. These are transport, buildings, manufacturing and agriculture.

In total, 20-25% of the GHG reductions needed for a net-zero EU economy will require some degree of digital enablement to happen at scale and at an acceptable social cost. This equates to GHG reductions of 700-900 MtCO2e across the EU.

Decarbonising digital

The report also assesses the journey to decarbonising the digital value chain. Data centres in the EU are estimated to account for 15-20 MtCO2e in 2020 (~0.5% of total EU emissions) through their operational emissions. It is also important to address the emissions across the whole value chain, including those related to data networks and end-user devices, as well as embedded emissions.

A team of experts

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