Will the digital revolution act as an enabler or as a barrier to reach our emissions reduction target? Elena Verdolini, senior researcher at RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment (EIEE), CMCC Foundation and Assistant Professor at Università degli Studi di Brescia, was awarded a ERC grant for her project focused on the interplay between digitalization and decarbonization. An analysis in terms of energy demand, mitigation potential, but also impacts on the labour market, competitiveness, the distribution of wealth and access to services.
Two key societal challenges, three key disruptive digital technologies, a focus on the interplay on digitalization and decarbonization: CMCC scientist Elena Verdolini was awarded as one of the very best, original and innovative researchers in Europe for the project 2D4D – Disruptive Digitalization for Decarbonization.
Senior researcher at the RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment (EIEE) and at the CMCC Foundation, Assistant Professor in Political Economy at Università degli Studi di Brescia, Dr. Verdolini explains the core of the scientific work that will engage her in the forthcoming years: “On the one hand, most countries worldwide are committed to lowering greenhouse gas emissions to avoid increases in global mean temperature above 2 degrees (or, even better, 1.5 degrees) with respect to pre-industrial levels. On the other hand, all countries are facing a fast process of digitalization in all aspects of their economies and societies. Digitalization will affect decarbonization efforts because of its impacts on energy demand, employment, competitiveness, trade patterns and its distributional, behavioural and ethical implications. Yet, the policy debates around these two transformations are largely disjoint. Whether digitalization will support the decarbonization process by, for instance, increasing energy efficiency and a better use of resources, or rather counter decarbonization because of large increases in energy and fossil-fuel demands, is still unknown. I will shed light on this and similar key research and policy questions”.
More in detail, Elena Verdolini’s research will focus on the decarbonization implications of three key disruptive digital technologies in hard-to-decarbonize sectors: (1) Additive Manufacturing in industry, (2) Mobility-as-a-Service in transportation, and (3) Artificial Intelligence in buildings.
“Using a mixed-methods approach, which combines insights from qualitative case studies and quantitative analyses”, she adds, “I will collect novel data to describe the interplay between digitalization and decarbonization in terms of energy demand, mitigation potential, but also impacts on the labour market, competitiveness and the distribution of wealth and access to services. I will use this data to enrich the integrated assessment models of the economy and climate (one of the main tools available to generate decarbonization pathways), and to study which policy portfolios can ensure that digitalization and decarbonization are mutually enhancing”.
Elena Verdolini is senior scientist at RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment (EIEE) and at the CMCC Foundation (SEME – Sustainable Earth Modelling Economics), and Assistant Professor in Political Economy at Università degli Studi di Brescia. She holds a degree in Political Science from the University of Pavia and a PhD in Economics and Finance of the Public Administration from Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan. Her main interest is in applied analysis, with a focus on the dynamics of innovation, technology transfer, green growth, and the economic impacts of environmental and energy policies. She is a Lead Author of the 6th Assessment Report of the IPCC in Working Group III.
The European Research Council, set up by the European Union in 2007, is the premiere European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. Every year, it selects and funds the very best, creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects in Europe. The ERC also strives to attract top researchers from anywhere in the world to come to work in Europe. Elena Verdolini is among the 408 early-career researchers from all disciplines that have been awarded ERC Starting grants. The highly-coveted funding will help early-career individual scientists and scholars to build their own team and conduct pioneering research. The grants, with a total worth of €621 million, are part of Horizon 2020, the EU’s Research and Innovation programme.
List of all selected researchers (alphabetical order).
Lists of selected researchers by domain (alphabetical order):
Discover more projects in this Starting Grant competition
More information about the ERC grants at the official ERC Press Release.