The coming decades will be characterised by two major technology challenges: climate change mitigation and digitalisation. The technological transition associated with climate change follows clear and well-defined goals. In contrast, digitalisation does not follow a clear objective and is commonly understood as a self-driving process of technological progress. Within this context, the European Commission launched, in 2019, the European Green Deal which sets out the framework for the European climate policy response over the coming decades. This was followed by the launch, in 2021, of the Digital compass which sets out the guidelines for the digital transition in Europe.
Both climate change mitigation and digitalisation require political governance. With regard to climate action, it is imperative to accelerate the technological transition to a low-carbon economy, while bearing in mind that the effects of climate change are unjustly distributed. Hence, accelerating climate change mitigation ought to be inclusive, especially to the most vulnerable segments of society and those living in the most exposed countries and regions. As for digitalisation, guidance is necessary to avoid adverse side effects such as the threat of mass surveillance arising from data monopolies, and the unequal distribution of gains and access to digital technologies. Being a process of major technological changes that permeates almost every sector of our lives, digitalisation has a strong disruptive potential. Hence, its benefits and risks also interact with climate action. This policy brief identifies the positive and negative interactions across processes of technological advances involved in both climate change mitigation and digitalisation. It also shows how current EU policy strategies take account of these interactions. It proceeds by outlining 15 principles around which policies for climate change mitigation, adaptation, and compensation should be designed to ensure coherence and justice and to leverage the greatest synergies with the ongoing process of digitalisation.
Climate Mainstreaming: Climate and Digital Policy. Kerstin Hötte. Policy Brief - Foundation for European Progressive Studies. February 2023.