The twin transition refers to the two biggest challenges we are facing in this decisive decade: the green and digital transformations, both equally crucial and challenging. These transitions are high priorities on the European Agenda due to their imminence: while our planet is running out of natural resources, we are also facing a fast-paced digitalisation of services and life overall.
The most interesting aspect of this twin transition is its reciprocity: they can mutually benefit from each other. By adopting a “twin transition” approach, global leaders can bring digital and green agendas together to drive sustainability goals and guarantee environmental standards. Bringing digital practices into our lives – such as hybrid or online working methodologies instead of going every weekday to the office – is helping reduce our carbon footprint on the planet. Clean digital technologies can be enablers for reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals, as they improve energy and other resources efficiency. New developments in technology and digitalisation are already delivering emissions reductions. Similarly, the green transition can drive digital innovation and provide new opportunities for the digital industry. Technologies like Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things are supporting the development of sustainable and inclusive energy solutions for our and future generations.
The synergy between these transitions is the essence of the green digital transformation, which will, in turn, lead to sustainable economic growth and multiple environmental benefits. At the heart of the twin transitions’ interconnectedness are sustainable digital technologies and green digital skills. When policymakers and business leaders align both these agendas, then digital technologies have the potential to amplify sustainability solutions. To encourage a twin transition strategy, Royal Schiphol Group and PA Consulting have co-produced the Twin Transition Playbook. By optimising digital technology to reduce environmental impact, the power of digital will unlock a positive impact on the environment and support the transition towards an environmentally friendly economy.
These are some of the organisations that are already working on the twin transition:
- The European Green Digital Coalition (EGDC) is a group of companies from the ICT sector, supported by the European Commission and the European Parliament, committed to supporting the European green and digital transitions. This coalition’s main objective is to maximise the sustainability benefits of digitalisation. It also aims to improve the understanding of different sectors on how to best proceed with the green digital twin transition by enabling cross-sectoral dialogues to bring emission-reducing digital solutions to all sectors.
- The European Training Foundation (ETF) is supporting skills for the green transition, while its Centres of vocational excellence are taking the lead in delivering a net-zero world through their specialised training and collaborative approach with industry.
- The OECD countries have already been working on this interconnection for years. The 2019 OECD Council Recommendation on Artificial Intelligence states that AI should support beneficial outcomes for people and the planet while promoting sustainable development.
- The INCO Academy Green Digital Skills is a free certificate program that equips individuals with the knowledge and skills to build sustainable digital solutions.
The EU has set green digital objectives for the region. One of the main objectives of the European Green Deal is to make Europe the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050. Therefore, many of the recent initiatives published under this deal propose the employment of digital tools to reach environmental and climate goals coherently. The digital transition, guided by the European Commission’s Digital Compass 2030 targets, will also contribute to the green objectives. For example, switching from 4G to 5G networks can potentially reduce energy consumption by up to 90%. Within the next few years, each European organisation will need to transform its business model to make it green and digital – and the process of designing and planning for a successful twin transition pathway will need to be inclusive and co-created.
Sustainable digitalisation is the result of this twin transition’s synergy, and it refers to the process of digitalising the economy in a green, long-lasting, and organic way. For digitalisation to follow this pathway, individuals will need the skills and competencies to understand and correctly use these green digital technologies. This will require large-scale investment in reskilling and upskilling processes globally. Being 2023 the European Year of Skills, every leader will need to place green digital technologies at the centre of their twin transition strategies to successfully overcome them.
Our collective approach to tackling the digital divide is specially aligned with one of the Digital Compass 2030 targets: by that year, at least 80% of the EU citizens should have basic digital skills. When considering the importance of this twin transition and its interconnectedness, we need to reflect on the position of green skills in basic digital skills training curriculums. To reach this target sustainably, aligned with this decade’s challenges and opportunities, individuals will need to learn and develop green digital skills as well – the digital competencies needed to adapt products, services and processes to environmental requirements and regulations. This, in turn, will create more resilient communities with the necessary skills to successfully navigate the twin transition. If we do not upskill individuals in vulnerable situations with these competencies, then they might face a new divide: a green divide – which will alienate them from the growing green sector.
The green and digital transitions will only succeed if they are addressed fairly and inclusively so that every citizen can make use of the benefits of digitalisation and decarbonisation. That is why green digital solutions will require actions for inclusion of every group in vulnerable situations, to guarantee they are given equal opportunities. If you work in digital inclusion, join our Collective and let’s work together to reach a sustainable digitalisation transition!