Start of Project 12/2018
End of Project 11/2021

Digitization is leading to significant changes in our living and working environments. New and increasingly powerful information and com­mu­ni­cation technologies (ICT) are in­flu­encing consumption, work and pro­duc­tion processes. The project addresses the ques­tion of what contribution the digitization of the economy and society can make to cli­mate protection and green growth. In par­ticu­lar, the role of demand effects and pro­duc­tion shifting in the use of ICT will be in­ves­ti­gated.

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Project results

ICT has created and continues to create numerous opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, the development of this potential is not self-dynamic. Two main challenges have been identified that counteract a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions through digitization. First, digitization often enables new services and behaviors, creating new demand and thus increasing energy and resource requirements. Secondly, the existence of an alternative climate-friendly digital service offering is usually not sufficient to displace old, climate-damaging processes and behaviors on a broad front virtually under its own steam. In this case, an external incentive is needed to abandon old, unsustainable processes and behaviors in favor of new, digital and efficient alternatives.

Illustration of project results

Due to travel restrictions, video­conferencing spread rapidly and will have a strong impact on business travel activity in the medium term. In a survey of 500 people, the expected distance traveled for business trips after the end of the pandemic was given by 390 respondents as an average of 1,038 km. There was a significant drop from 16% to 9% in the number of respondents stating that they travel between 1,000 km and 5,000 km per month. For distances between 500 km and 1,000 km, the proportion also declined from 17% to 9%.  Distances of over 5,000 km per month were previously traveled by 5% of respondents, but in the future this will be only 4%. The distance traveled decreases considerably for public transport/train, airplane and car; for bicycling and walking, it remains approximately the same at a low level. The modal split of transport performance is shifting toward avoided transport. 

Main Findings

  • Call for a "3-pillar policy of climate-friendly digi­talization".
  • In order to use the climate protection po­ten­tials and to achieve a sustainable digital trans­formation, an active policy for climate protection through digi­talization is urgently needed. A 3-pillar policy was derived as a measure:
    1. Research complex climate protection effects and make them trans­parent
    2. Synchronize the diffusion of new and the exnovation of old solutions
    3. Establish fundamental rules of the game
  • The hope for a self-dynamic development of climate protection potential is deceptive and could not be confirmed within the frame­work of the examined cases.

Flagship Paper

Clausen, J., Niebel, T., Hintemann, R., Schramm, S., Axenbeck, J. & Iffländer, S. (2022):
Klimaschutz durch digitale Transformation: Realistische Perspektive oder Mythos? - CliDiTrans Endbericht.

Axenbeck, J., Niebel, T. (2021):
Climate Protection Potentials of Digitalized Production Processes: Microeconometric Evidence? 23rd ITS Biennial Conference, Online Conference / Gothenburg 2021.

Clausen, J., Schramm, S. (2021):
Climate protection potentials of the use of video conferences and when working from home. Results of a representative survey of business travellers. CliDiTrans Workshop Report. Berlin: Borderstep Institute.

Hintemann, R. (2021): 
Rechenzentren 2020. Cloud Computing profitiert von der Krise. Energiebedarf der Rechenzentren steigt trotz Corona weiter an. Berlin: Borderstep Institut.

Niebel, T., Böning, J. & Axenbeck, J. (2022):
Climate Protection Potential of Digital Transformation - the Role of Production Relocation. IARIW 37th General Conference, Luxembourg, August 22-26, 2022 Conference Paper.