Digital technologies can reduce global emissions by 20%. Here’s how

  • If scaled up, digital technology could reduce its emissions by 20% by 2050 in the three sectors that emit emissions: energy, materials and mobility.
  • These industries can already reduce emissions by 4-10% by 2030, accelerating the adoption of digital technologies.
  • Data transparency, digital talent and collaboration will be key components in taking technology to the next level.

The impacts of climate change are worsening day by day, but commitments for 2030 are projected to reduce emissions by only 7.5%. We need a 55% reduction by 2030 to keep the goals of the Paris Agreement on track. To fill this gap, high-emission sectors will need to be re-wired for efficiency, circularity and sustainability. Digital technology can help accelerate this transformation.

Accentur’s analysis, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, shows that digital technology, if scaled across all industries, could provide up to 20% of the required reduction by 2050 for the International Energy Agency’s zero net trajectories in energy, materials and mobility. industries. These industries can already reduce emissions by 4-10% with the rapid adoption of digital technologies.

digital technologies;  global emissions

Digital technology can make a big difference when it comes to zero.

Image: Accenture, IEA, OECD, WEF, UN, US government data

Opportunities in energy, materials and mobility

Energy, materials and mobility are the three sectors with the highest emissions, accounting for 34%, 21% and 19% of all emissions in 2020, respectively. Digital technologies also represent the sectors with the greatest potential for reducing emissions. These include four sets of influential digital technologies:

  • decision-making technologies that enhance human intelligence
  • Technologies that collect data and change physical processes to make it more sustainable to detect and control
  • Enabling the benefits of technologies that are fundamental to any digital business today
  • basic technologies within current operations.

Digital technologies that can drive decarbonisation in the energy, materials and mobility sectors.

Image: Accenture

In the energy sector, our research shows that digital use cases can account for up to 8% of greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions by 2050. This would be achieved by increasing the efficiency of carbon-consuming processes and improving the energy efficiency of buildings, as well. the deployment and management of renewable energy, using artificial intelligence driven by cloud computing, and high-speed installations with 5G.

IntenCity is a good example of this – the Schneider Electric building is equipped with the Internet of Things (IoT) – enabled solutions that offer an extreme digital architecture that captures more than 60,000 data points every 10 minutes. It is ready for smart grids and is energy-efficient, with a 4,000 m2 photovoltaic panel and two vertical wind turbines. IntenCity has its own building information modeling system, which is an accurate reflection of the construction and energy model capable of reproducing the energy behavior of a real building.

In materials, cases of digital use can account for up to 7% of GHG reductions by 2050. This would be done by improving mining and upstream production and focusing on core technologies such as big data analytics and cloud / edge computing. In addition, taking advantage of the blockchain, use cases can improve process efficiency and promote circularity.

In mobility, cases of digital use could be reduced by up to 5% of GHG emissions by 2050, according to our study. This means taking advantage of sensor technologies such as IoT, imaging and geolocation to gather real-time data to make system decisions. Ultimately, route optimization would be improved and emissions would be reduced for both rail and road transport.

For example, Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) platforms are becoming more and more advanced tools for planning mobility for consumers, promoting a full range of low-carbon options such as eBikes, scooters or transportation. Uber has added travel options to its customer app and digital platform, which uses analytics to recommend transportation solutions for consumers. Other studies have found an estimated emission reduction of more than 50% if MaaS were to replace individual use of the private car.

There are cases of priority and high-impact use that can be most beneficial in the energy, materials and mobility sectors if scaled.

9 high-impact digital technology use cases that could benefit the energy, materials and mobility sectors

Image: Accenture

Three steps to scaling up digital adoption while reducing global emissions

The choice is clear: companies can meet zero zero targets faster if they adopt digital use cases with high potential for decarbonizing industries. Although many business partners at the World Economic Forum have begun to spread some examples of lighthouses, they can learn from each other and work collaboratively to quickly transform their businesses, systems, employees, and partnerships at the scale.

First and foremost, companies need to ensure that their data is shared, autonomous, connected, and that they enable transparency that supports a range of results: identifying and tracing source materials, optimizing routes, and improving efficiency. They need to invest in new data architectures and integrate recognized frameworks into their internal reporting structures. This ensures that data can be used, standardized, and shared across value chains and partners outside of their usual operating environment.

Second, companies need to prioritize digital inclusion and skills development. They need to ensure that current and future employees have access to new technologies and to scaling digital technologies and transforming business processes in high-emission industries.

Third, companies need to foster collaboration between digital, sustainability and operations teams in their businesses, but also in value chains and industries. Collaborations between private companies, startups, technology providers, investors, and public agencies will be key to scaling up investments, eliminating technology risks, and accelerating knowledge sharing.

It is important to ensure that digital transformations that accelerate the transition to clean energy are also inclusive and sustainable, that the benefits will benefit everyone. We also need to reduce the emissions of these digital technologies by ensuring that they have a very positive impact on our planet.


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