The role of ‘digital’ in the Green Deal and climate change movement

Last Updated on Friday, 16 July, 2021 at 11:36 am by Andre Camilleri

Gayle Kimberley is Director, Ewropa Consultancy

There has been a lot of talk about the Green Deal. The biggest misconception that abounds is that when we talk about tackling climate change through the Green Deal, we’re talking about green walls, renewable energy, clean fuels, recyclable materials and anything that has a tangible footprint.

Of course these issues are instrumental to the Green Deal in tackling climate change, but we need to be talking about the digital transition too.

Smart use of clean digital technologies can serve as a key enabler for climate action and environmental sustainability. Digital technologies improve energy and resource efficiency and facilitate a circular economy. They also reduce emissions, pollution, biodiversity loss and environmental degradation and improve resilience to climate change impacts.

From the get go the EU Commission spoke of the twin green and digital transition. The digital aspect seems to be spoken about less but it is vital. In fact, when allocating funds to Malta and other member states through the Recovery and Resilience Facility, the EU Commission insisted that countries mutually support the green and digital transitions. Member states must allocate at least 37% of funding to green activities and at least 20% of funding to digital transition. In addition, the EU has adopted other EU funding instruments to help the deployment of green solutions supporting digital networks, technologies, data and applications to speed up the path to climate neutrality and accelerate the green and digital transition in priority areas.

For a country like Malta this is great news. We have always excelled at turning nascent economic activities into full blown economic niches, think gaming, financial services, hedge funds, medical cannabis … the list goes on. Malta can now also compete globally in the green tech market, particularly by promoting innovative technologies, low-power electronics and environmental sustainability of ICT solutions.

With the proper political and financial backing we will accelerate the development and deployment of digital technologies, such as Very High Capacity Networks allowing to build 5G and 6G networks, fibre optics, High performance computing (HPC), Quantum computing and Quantum Communication, Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain technologies, cloud solutions, Artificial intelligence (AI) and big data, as key solutions to ensure the impact of climate adaptation and mitigation policies, decrease pollution, optimise energy and resource efficiency, develop a circular economy, promote precision farming and help to combat the loss of biodiversity.

The Green Deal offers an unprecedented opportunity for Malta to create yet another niche: a proper digital ecosystem across all the public and private sector. This will create specific know-how across the population working in or simply using these digital technologies and services, making Malta and the Maltese leaders in this sector, able to export our digital solutions and expertise to neighbouring countries in the Mediterranean and beyond.

I strongly believe government should adopt one comprehensive holistic national digital strategy – digitizing all the public sector and eventually the private sector with synergies between the two – so that we can put ourselves on the map as digital leaders. The public sector can lead the way, the private sector will undoubtedly follow making investments in this sector and attracting FDI.

And this can all be done with the backing of EU funds but also by leveraging private equity, including venture capital, to support the green tech start-ups and SMEs. And while creating a new economic niche for Malta we will also be benefiting our climate and future generations. The Economic Vision 2021-2031 couldn’t have put it better: “… environmental degradation is no longer sine qua non to economic success. … Activities, which protect the environment, will not only ensure a better quality of life and the safeguarding of natural resources, but also lead to the development of new economic niches, investment and a better tourism offering”.

To me that is a win-win!

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