Twin transitions of decarbonisation and digitalisation: A historical perspective on energy and information in European economies
This paper investigates the structural transformation associated with the ‘twin transition’ of decarbonisation and digitalisation in European economies by placing it in a broader historical perspective. With this in mind, this paper analyses the long run trends in energy intensity and communication intensity since 1850. The evidence indicates that these economies experienced a coevolution of energy and communication intensities during their industrialisation phase, followed by a divergence in the energy and communication intensities associated with the development of high tech and ICT. Overall, this reflects the dematerialisation of these European economies. The paper also analyses the speed of historical energy transitions and communication technology transitions in these economies, finding that communication transitions appear to be substantially faster than energy transitions. The evidence suggests that twin transitions of the decarbonisation and digitalisation of economies are likely to experience a process of imbalanced structural transformation (with ICT continuing to forge ahead). This expectation should guide policy recommendations – increasing the need for low carbon industry to develop and create synergies between the two industries in order to avoid the new industrial revolution being high‑carbon.
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