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Is digitalization's impact on CO2 emissions positive or negative?

One thing I like about online events is the diversity of realities that gather in a virtual room. When respACT - austrian business council for sustainable development invited me to moderate a CEO talk on "leadership in the digital transformation", we had participants looking at the fog at lake Mondsee or a herb garden in South Tyrol, hearing the sirens of an ambulance in front of their office or the fighting guinea pigs in the room next door.

Our topic, in comparison was very focused: By 2040, Austria wants to be climate neutral. That means businesses and their leaders play a crucial role in implementing national politics leading to a low carbon economy. So, the question is: how can the digital transformation support us in reaching this goal?

Peter Giffinger, president of respACT, Monika Köppl-Turyna, director of EcoAustria - Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung and Marvin Peters Director Mobile at Samsung Austria discussed this question with the audience.

In her presentation, Monika Köppl-Turyna shared insights from one of their most recent studies asking: is digitalization's impact on CO2 emissions positive or negative?

The answer, as often, is complex:

We save transportation emissions when doing events, shopping, or health consultation online.

We save electricity with smart homes or the internet of things.

At the same time, the infrastructure, the servers, and so on need energy, and every action in one direction has consequential effects, often tricky to estimate.

But still, the big picture seems to be that digitalization lowers our CO2 emissions.

If only slightly, this gave the discussion an optimistic tone.

So, if the solutions and approaches we find to tackle this challenge will be as colourful and diverse as the realities in this virtual room, we might even have reason to be slightly ever more optimistic.

If you are interested in watching the whole event (in German), here you go:

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