Digital technology: The backbone of a net-zero emissions future

Author: MIT Technology Review Insights in partnership with Shell

A new report released by the MIT Technology Review Insights in partnership with Shell examines how industry leaders are leveraging digital technologies to meet decarbonisation targets. The report ‘[Digital technology: The backbone of a net-zero emissions future contains (i) findings derived from a global survey conducted with 350 C-level executives at large global companies in the following sectors: energy, metals and mining, industrial manufacturing, construction, technology industry, transport, petrochemical manufacturing, and retail, and (ii) insights gathered from discussions with nine subject matter experts.

Key research findings reveal that digital solutions are deemed important for enabling the energy transition, including for optimizing efficiency and low-carbon energy systems, designing carbon sequestration technologies, improving sustainability data sharing and monitoring GHG sinks.

Achieving a circular economy is mentioned as the leading environmental goal for the majority (54%) of participants from all sectors except petrochemical manufacturing. In addition, forging partnerships with tech experts was the most referred way (31%) to promote the uptake of digital technologies in industries. While experts argue that open standards and data sharing across the supply chain are “inevitable” for reaching net zero goals, they do not have the same weight for industry leaders, with only 16% perceiving them as top accelerators for digital technology deployment.

As for the challenges, cybersecurity is ranked at the top (58%), with account for its importance varying across sectors and regions. Finally, survey responses indicate that one of the most preferred approaches when it comes to digital technologies adoption is to wait for them to mature, leaving only a small portion of participants willing to try them early on (11%).