You are cordially invited to an online public lecture by the Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy on
DIGITALISATION AND SUSTAINABILITY
Dr. Istvan Komoroczki
European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)
Introduction by Professor Zoltan Illes, Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy
Thursday, November 5, 2020 at 13:30
The German EU Council Presidency of the European Council has requested an EESC opinion on "Digitalisation and Sustainability – status quo and need for action in civil society perspective". The Federal Environment Ministry (BMU) decided to put a special emphasis on the topic of digitalisation and sustainability during Germany’s Presidency. The current crisis with increasing demand for teleworking, virtual conferences and digital services highlights the need for sustainable digitalisation even more.
The EESC calls for policies that further embed a digital economy incorporating our societal values, thus ensuring that a digital wellbeing economy is as inclusive as possible, allowing workers, consumers, SMEs, large companies and non-profit economic actors to benefit alike, especially in rural areas. Such policies include:
- developing fiscal policy to ensure that digital businesses pay their fair share of taxes;
- building upon the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to develop a distinctive law on data protection in the workplace;
- adjusting current legislation to the digital age in order to regulate digital platform markets;
- fostering open-source software and applications;
- taking a "public money – public data" approach, so that publicly-funded research data is publicly available;
- developing a strategic data governance policy, including "public data trusts".
The EESC calls on national and local governments to support cooperative sharing platforms. It also calls for transparent, fair and green ICT production chains, ambitious energy standards and an extension of the EU eco-design directive, and asks the European Commission to:
- adapt EU legislation to make online shopping more sustainable, and develop responsible policies on packaging, deliveries and return of packages;
- protect small operators in the market against monopolistic platforms;
- develop a comprehensive set of criteria and indicators for sustainable software products and a digital product pass;
- improve GDPR regarding data sufficiency and data coupling;
- impose restrictions on online advertising to create ad-free spaces.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to a sudden and significant decrease in transportation, production and consumption; the increased use of ICT mitigated energy-intensive working practices and lifestyles. The EESC calls for appropriate political measures to help consolidate these positive aspects after the pandemic. This, of course, raises wider questions about the energy efficiency of the "cloud" and the data centres that sustain it. For example:
- establishing an EU inventory of data centres (covering energy efficiency, lifecycle, construction materials, etc.) and a toprunner scheme, to ensure that the most energy-efficient data centres become the norm;
- requiring new data centres to be 100% energy-efficient;
- using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to support the climate and energy transition;
- suggesting measures for sustainable AI solutions.
The EESC commends current EU projects like REMOURBAN or MAtchUP, recognising the central importance of sustainable smart city development, including innovative approaches to integrated mobility, energy and tourism.
Istvan Komoroczki is a member in the EESC Employers' Group. Member in External Affairs Section and its Bureau and Section of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment.