The Öko-Institut e.V. and the IZT investigated the possible effects of digitalisation on climate change. On the one hand, digitalisation offers a wide range of opportunities to make consumption and production patterns as well as transport and material flows more efficient and thus also more climate-friendly. On the other hand, the production and operation of hardware and software is itself resource-intensive. Examples include the increasing power consumption of a growing number of data centres or the energy-intensive training of artificial intelligence. It is true that many of the digital technologies themselves have become increasingly energy-efficient in recent years. But the increasing use, also due to falling costs for data transmission, leads to a further increase in energy consumption. Whether the use of digital technologies can help to save energy and resources in absolute terms and thus contribute to climate protection depends on many variables. Therefore, the study addresses the following topics:

  • Status quo and trends of digitalisation in Germany in general as well as specifically in the areas of transport, energy, industry and buildings.
  • Energy and resource consumption of digitalisation in Germany and its main drivers.
  • Potentials of digital technologies for climate protection in the four areas mentioned above
  • Policy instruments for the climate-neutral design of digitalisation.
  • Funding approaches to mobilise the potential of digital technologies for climate protection.

In the project, existing studies and publications were systematically evaluated and own calculations were made. The aim was to investigate and map interactions between digital transformation and the restructuring of the economy and society to achieve climate neutrality. The analysis was also used to derive options that can mobilise and support the use of digital technologies for climate protection with targeted investments and funding approaches.

The IZT took on the work packages to define the term digitalisation and to classify it in the discourses relevant to economic and climate policy. It also analysed the status quo of digitalisation in Germany, including the current effects of the Corona pandemic. The central dynamics up to the year 2030 as well as uncertainty factors were described by means of a scientific trend analysis. The IZT team was responsible for the topics of the energy industry and transport, and supported the Öko-Institut in calculating the energy and resource consumption caused by digitalisation in Germany, as well as analysing possible policy instruments for making the same climate-neutral.