The Commission today adopted the 2022 strategic foresight report entitled “Ensuring the coupling of green and digital transitions in the new geopolitical context”. As we prepare to accelerate both transitions, the report identifies ten key areas for action with the aim of maximizing synergies and coherence between our climate ambitions and our digital ambitions. In doing so, the EU will strengthen its cross-sector resilience and open strategic autonomy, and be better prepared to face new global challenges by 2050.
Maros ŠefcovicVice-President for Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight, said:
“To achieve climate neutrality by 2050, we need to unleash the potential of digital. At the same time, sustainability must be at the heart of digital transformation. This is why this strategic foresight report analyzes in more detail the best way to align our two objectives, especially since they have an important security dimension due to current geopolitical changes. For example, from 2040, recycling could be a major source of metals and minerals, essential for new technologies, provided that Europe manages to fill its gaps in the field of raw materials. Understanding this interplay between these two transitions, while striving to achieve open strategic autonomy, is the right way forward.”
Green and digital transitions are among the Commission’s top political priorities set by the President von der Leyen in 2019. In view of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, Europe is stepping up to become a global climate and digital spearhead, keeping in mind the main challengesfrom energy and food to defense and advanced technologies. In this perspective, the 2022 Strategic Foresight Report presents a comprehensive and forward-looking analysis of the interactions between the two transitions, taking into account the role of new and emerging technologies as well as the main geopolitical, social, economic and regulatory factors that condition their coupling (i.e. their ability to mutually reinforce each other).
Technologies essential for coupling by 2050
On the one hand, digital technologies help the EU achieve climate neutrality, reduce pollution and restore biodiversity. On the other hand, their widespread use increases energy consumption, while resulting in more electronic waste and leaving a larger environmental footprint.
energy, transportation, industry, buildingand farming, namely the top five greenhouse gas emitters in the EU, are key to successfully coupling the green and digital transitions. Technologies will play a key role in reducing the carbon footprint of these sectors. In 2030, the majority of CO2 emission reductions2 will come from technologies available today. However, achieving climate neutrality and circularity by 2050 will be possible with new technologies currently in experimental, demonstration or prototype stages.
For instance :
- In the energy sector, new sensors, satellite data and blockchains could contribute to enhancing EU energy security, improving the forecasting of energy production and demand, preventing weather-related disruptions or by facilitating cross-border trade;
- in the transport sector, a new generation of batteries or digital technologies, such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, will enable major changes towards sustainability and multimodal mobility between different modes of transport, including transport. short-range aviation;
- in industrial sectors, digital twins (a virtual counterpart of a physical object or process, using real-time data and machine learning) could help improve design, production and maintenance;
- in the construction sector, building information modeling could improve energy efficiency and water use, which would affect design choices and building use;
- finally, in the agricultural sector, quantum computing, combined with bioinformatics, can improve the understanding of the biological and chemical processes necessary to reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers.
Geopolitical, social, economic and regulatory factors affecting coupling
L’current geopolitical instability confirms the need not only to accelerate the dual transition, but also to reduce our strategic dependencies. In the short term, this instability will continue to affect energy and food prices, with all the social consequences that this would entail. In the medium and long term, for example, thesustainable access to essential raw materials to the dual transition will remain of paramount importance, which will increase the pressure to move to shorter and less vulnerable supply chains and to locate production in “friendly” countries where possible.
Pairing will also requireanchor the EU economic model in terms of well-being, sustainability and circularity. The position of the EU in thedevelopment of global standards will play an important role, while thesocial equity and the skills agenda will be among the conditions for success, along with the mobilization ofpublic and private investments. Additional future-proof investments of €650 billion are expected to be needed each year until 2030.
Ten key action areas
The report identifies areas where a strategic response is needed to maximize opportunities and minimize potential risks that arise from coupling:
- To reinforce resilience and open strategic autonomy in sectors essential to the dual transition, for example through the work of the European Observatory of Critical Technologies or the common agricultural policy to guarantee food security.
- To reinforce green and digital diplomacyleveraging the regulatory and standardization power of the EU, while promoting EU values and fostering partnerships.
- To manage strategically sourcing critical materials and commoditiesadopting a long-term systemic approach in order to avoid falling into a new dependency trap.
- To reinforce economic and social cohesionfor example by strengthening social protection and the welfare state, with regional development strategies and investments also playing an important role.
- Adapt education and training systems to a rapidly changing technological and socio-economic reality and support labor mobility between sectors.
- Mobilize additional future-proof investments in new technologies and infrastructures, and in particular in research and innovation and in the synergies between human capital and technologies, and this within the framework of transnational projects essential to the pooling of European, national and private resources .
- Elaborate monitoring frameworks to measure well-being beyond GDP and assess the favorable effects of the digital transition and its overall carbon, energy and environmental footprint.
- Guarantee a future-proof regulatory framework for the single market that is conducive to sustainable business models and consumption patterns, for example by constantly reducing administrative burdens, updating our state aid toolkit or applying artificial intelligence to support the policy-making and citizen participation.
- To reinforce a global approach to standardization and harnessing the EU’s advantage as a pioneer in competitive sustainability, based on the principle of ‘reduce, repair, reuse and recycle’.
- Promote a strong framework for cybersecurity and secure data sharing to ensure, among other things, that critical entities can prevent, resist and recover from disruptions, and ultimately build trust in dual transition technologies.
The Commission will continue to advance its strategic foresight agenda, while enriching the reflection on the initiatives of its work program for next year.
On 17 and 18 November 2022, the Commission will co-host the annual conference on the European Strategy and Policy Analysis System (ESPAS) to discuss the findings of the 2022 Strategic Foresight Report and prepare the ground for the 2023 edition.
Strategic foresight helps the Commission in its innovative and ambitious action to implement the six main objectives of the President von der Leyen. Since 2020, based on full foresight cycles, annual strategic foresight reports are produced with the aim of informing the Commission’s priorities set out in the annual State of the Union Address and guiding the work of the Commission as well as the multi-annual programming.
This year’s Strategic Foresight Report builds on the 2020 and 2021 Foresight Reports, which focused respectively on resilience as a new course in defining EU action and on strategic autonomy open Union.
The analysis presented in the 2022 Strategic Foresight Report was based on a cross-sectoral foresight exercise conducted by experts from the Joint Research Center (JRC), complemented by extensive consultations with Member States and other EU institutions. within the framework of the ESPAS and through consultations with citizens by means of a call for contributions published on “share your opinion“. The results of this forward thinking are presented in the JRC’s Science for Policy series report entitled “Towards a green and digital future. Key requirements for successful twin transitions in the European Union(“Towards a green and digital future. The essential requirements for a successful dual transition in the European Union”).
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2022 Strategic Foresight Report: ensuring the coupling of green and digital transitions in the new geopolitical context
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