Strategic Foresight Report (2022): Towards climate neutrality, the necessary twinning of green and digital transition

Claudia Rosati

The European Commission on Wednesday 29 June adopted the third edition of the Strategic Foresight Report named “Twinning the green and digital transition in the new geopolitical context”.

The Strategic Foresight Report is an initiative of the Commission towards achieving the six main ambitions for Europe presented by Ursula von der Leyen at the beginning of her mandate and which define the work of the European institutions. The report aims to identify emerging challenges and opportunities in the European Union and help the Commission design policies and legislation to better target policy choices that meet both current needs and long-term aspirations. And it is precisely in response to these new needs that the third Commission report addresses one of the most important and urgent challenges of this century – the digital and green transition.

Indeed, the energy and digital transition have been on the European Union’s political agenda for years and numerous efforts have been made in this direction. The ambition to achieve a European economy with zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 is at the heart of the European Green Deal and fulfils the EU’s commitment under the Paris Agreement. At the same time, the EU is presenting strategies and plans for a strong digital transformation in Europe, such as the digital targets for 2030 which aim to drive digitalisation around four “cardinal points” – skills, infrastructures, businesses and government.

In light of recent geopolitical events, the energy transition is a challenge that can no longer be postponed and must necessarily concern all economic sectors. Nevertheless, the energy transition cannot be separated from the digital transition, as the two must go hand in hand and the success of one depends on the success of the other. And it is precisely the importance of the interaction between the two transitions that the Commission’s 2022 Strategic Foresight Report focused on. Aiming to better accelerate and address the challenges raised by the transitions, the report identifies ten key action areas to maximise the synergies and coherence of the desired twinning of digital and green transitions:

1. Strengthening resilience and open strategic autonomy in sectors critical for the twin transitions
2. Stepping up green and digital diplomacy by leveraging the EU’s regulatory and standardisation power
3. Strategically managing supply of critical materials and commodities to avoid a new dependency trap
4. Strengthening economic and social cohesion via regional development strategies and investment
5. Adapting education and training systems to match a rapidly transforming technological and socio-economic reality
6. Mobilising additional future-proof investment into new technologies and infrastructures
7. Developing monitoring frameworks for measuring wellbeing beyond GDP
8. Ensuring a future-proof regulatory framework for the Single Market, conducive to sustainable business models and consumer patterns
9. Stepping up a global approach to standard-setting and benefitting from the EU’s first mover advantage in competitive sustainability
10. Promoting robust cybersecurity and a secure data sharing framework to prevent disruptions, and to build trust in technologies linked to the twin transitions.

A collective effort and increased focus on achieving results in these ten areas is essential. On 17-18 November 2022, during the ESPAS – inter-institutional cooperation and consultation framework – annual Conference, the conclusions of this year’s Strategic Foresight Report will be discussed and the foundations for the 2023 edition will be laid.

There is still a long way to go towards the twin transition, but EU efforts in these areas are intensifying. In recent days, several measures in these areas have been voted on. On 6 July 2022, MEPs approved the European Commission’s delegated act on the EU taxonomy during the plenary session. The direction of the EU energy transition is now clearer as certain gas and nuclear related activities will now also be listed among the sustainable activities. On 5 July 2022, the Digital Services Package was also voted on in the plenary session. The Digital Markets Act (DMA) and the Digital Services Act (DSA) were approved with 588 and 539 votes in favour, respectively, (DSA).

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