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Digitization as an opportunity for climate protection?

Six years ago, Germany signed the Paris Agreement and thereby agreed to formulate and implement concrete measures for climate protection. By 2030, emissions of greenhouse gases (CO2e) are to be reduced by 262 megatons. The German government’s Climate Action Programme 2030 establishes concrete measures at sector level, and yet one important aspect is left out: digitization.

What potential do digital technologies have in achieving the climate objectives for 2030? A recent study by Accenture, commissioned by Bitkom, provides new insights: Accelerated digitization can save a net 38% of CO2e emissions.  

The study examines the 7 sectors, that were responsible for more than 95% of CO2e emissions generated in Germany in 2019, and therefore have the greatest saving potential. Namely, these sectors are industrial manufacturing, mobility, energy, buildings, work & business, agriculture, and health.

Consequently, the study analyses the opposing effects of sustainable digitization: how great is the potential of digital technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to their own CO2e footprint? This question is considered in two scenarios, a moderate and an accelerated digitization. The moderate digitization expects the market penetration of digital technologies to develop with a rate similar to what is currently the case in Germany. The accelerated digitization expects the development of the market penetration to follow the lead of other countries that have already widely implemented digital technologies.

The results of the study speak volumes: overall, digitization has the potential to achieve between 20-40% of the CO2e savings required by 2030, depending on the scenario. Moderate digitization would be able to cover about 24% of these savings, and accelerated digitization even approximately 38%. The biggest amount of greenhouse gas savings could be realised in the areas of industrial manufacturing, mobility, energy and buildings. For example, digital technologies such as intelligent traffic control and route optimization could reduce the total kilometres driven. Thus, the faster the digitization progresses, the greater are its climate-protecting effects.

According to the study, politicians play a key role now and should promote the use of digital technology. However, given the current circumstances, it seems that policymakers may have little capacity to adequately address this demand. This makes the efforts of the economy all the more important. A representative Bitkom survey of 750 companies in Germany shows that 77% have already been able to reduce their CO2 emissions through digitization measures. Such efforts represent only the first step towards climate neutrality – a goal that almost every second company has voluntarily committed itself to.

Naturally, REISSWOLF as well has always attached great importance to nature and the environment. Some small goals have already been achieved, such as reducing our carbon footprint through logistics optimization. Further milestones have now been set out in a sustainability roadmap: these are the next steps to be able to successfully realize our own claim to climate neutrality.


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