German think-tank proposes ‘digitalised sustainability’

12 Apr 19

Digitalisation is essential in the quest to fashion sustainable economies able to meet global climate goals, says a German think-tank.

The German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) has called for the launch of a European digitalisation strategy to link these key aims.

In a report released this week called ‘Towards Our Common Digital Future’ – a reference to the 1987 Brundtland Report ‘Our Common Future’ that outlined the concept of sustainable development – it sketches out a new concept of a “digitalised sustainability society” where these aspirations go hand in hand.

“Designing digitalisation initiatives is about more than short-term issues like providing internet access in remote regions,” said WBGU member Karen Pittel, director of Munich’s Leibniz Institute for Economic Research (ifo) Center for Energy, Climate and Resources.

“It is particularly important to develop a European digitalisation strategy that preserves Europe’s competitiveness without jeopardising its values.”

In its report, the council examines the challenges and opportunities of digitalization and highlights how they affect sustainable development.

It warns that without appropriate policy frameworks, the digital transformation threatens to further accelerate not just resource and energy consumption, but environmental and climate degradation as well.

The report says that digitalisation is having “a profound effect on all economic, social and societal systems and is developing an ever greater transformative force.

“This in turn is increasingly having a fundamental impact on people, societies and the planet itself and must therefore be managed accordingly.”

The think-tank wants global research in the areas of both digitalisation and sustainability to be brought together.

It says the European Union has made significant progress in combining  competitiveness with data protection in an effort to create competitive advantages for EU companies.

At the same time EU is also at the global forefront of sustainability policy – environmental protection is enshrined as an EU objective in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and the bloc is working on a new Environmental Action Programme as well as a decarbonization strategy.

“However, the EU is not (yet) a pioneer when it comes to the urgently needed, implementation-oriented dovetailing of sustainability and digitalisation,” the report says.

  • Gavin O'Toole, expert on Latin America
    Gavin O'Toole

    A freelance journalist. He has written six books about Latin America and taught the politics of the region at Queen Mary, University of London.

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