Main session: Environment

9 Nov 2020 16:40h - 18:10h

Event report

In this session, the panellist discussed how technologies are used and developed throughout the world to measure, understand, and fight the impacts of climate change. They showcased solutions and commitments for climate action across different layers of the global digital ecosystem. Finally, they elaborated on the elements necessary to create policy environments in which environmental initiatives can flourish.

Mr Krzysztof Szubert (Former Secretary of State / Deputy Minister of Digital Affairs, Poland) stressed that the environment has not been a key topic in the IGF agenda so far. Bringing the topic to the forum reveals the urgency of discussing the bridges between technology, the Internet, and environmental issues on a multistakeholder platform. Given that climate change and digital technology are key elements for the future of our civilization, initiatives that work on both fields will be further developed and discussed. Moreover, energy production and consumption are tightly linked to the use of information and communications technology (ICT) and, therefore, must have a place in the IGF.

Mr Luis Neves (CEO, GeSi) indicated that his company has invested in understanding climate change and sustainability. GeSi has recently published research reports with data on how digital technologies can slow down climate change. The reports reveal that digital technologies can reduce 1.34 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions by 2030. This result is possible by increasing energy efficiency and intelligent transportation systems. Furthermore, the reports concluded that digital technologies can support middle-income countries, such as Brazil, Chile, India, South Africa, and Vietnam to reduce 10% of their CO2 emissions by improving transportation, manufacturing, and agricultural systems. He believes that digital technologies will be fundamental in addressing climate change.

Mr Markus Wuest (Head of the Environmental Monitoring Section, Federal Office for the Environment, Switzerland) noticed that the ICT sector still produces more CO2 emission than it has saved so far. The Federal Office’s goal is to reverse this reality in a way that ICT saves more CO2. The main initiative taken by the federal government resides on public procurement legislation that covers the economy, competition, transparency, and sustainability. The initiative aims at standardising data on how different products impact the environment. The main goal is to make such information publicly available in a consistent and easy manner to guide consumers in their shopping decisions.

Ms Kara Hurst (Vice President and Head of Worldwide Sustainability, Amazon) revealed that Amazon is focused on using their scale, as well as capabilities for speed and innovation to double down on sustainability. The Amazon Sustainability Data Initiative (ASDI), for instance, seeks to accelerate research and innovation by minimising costs and time required to both acquire and analyse large sustainability data sets. The company already works with institutions, such as NASA, particularly to share their know-how to identify and deploy data sets off the Amazon Web Services (AWS) clouds, including weather observation, satellite data, climate projection data, air quality data, and ocean forecasts. Amazon also supports Digital Earth Africa (DE Africa), which enables the African nation to track climate changes across the continent. Putting all this data together and analysing it provided valuable insights around better decision-making for prevention and planning, including issues related to floods, droughts, soil, coastal erosion, land use, and water availability. At the macro level, the company is committed to zero CO2 in 2040, by investing in renewable energy for all their operations.

Ms Majda Dabaghi (CEO, SME Climate Hub) stressed the importance of addressing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in value chains. Climate Hub is mobilising and supporting SMEs in the value chains of companies that have made strong climate commitments. SMEs are invited to take on the obligations internationally recognised by the United Nations Race to Zero campaign and align with the net zero target. Race to Zero is all about bringing together stakeholders whether they are governments, businesses, investors, or universities around the goal to make the Paris Agreement a reality. Ms Maya Ormazabal (Head of Environment and Climate Change, Telefonica) said that the company is working on reducing the environmental impact of their operations as part of a sustainability strategy. Commitments include the use of 100% of renewable energy, reduction of energy consumption per unit of telecommunications traffic, and reduction of CO2 emissions.

Mr Michael Oghia (Advocacy & Engagement Manager, GFMD) started by stressing that the progress on the nexus of Internet governance and environment sustainability is significant, given that the relationship between the environment and Internet governance has a troubled history, with some questioning the need to include such a discussion within the IGF. Oghia underlined the current need to unlock relevant data held by public and private sector actors and collectively build a digital ecosystem to monitor greenhouse gas emissions, climate risks in real time, while informing about climate-safe investments and promoting a more sustainable digital economy through private and public collaboration.

Mr David Jensen (Head of Programme, UNEP) mentioned that there are two core trends sweeping the planet. First, the environmental crises that include climate, nature, and pollution crisis. Second, digital technologies that provide unprecedented data scales and scopes. Jensen believes that the future governance of the Internet will be shaped to help digitalised environmental sustainability. The first step forward is for the IGF to adopt environmental digital co-operation as a key topic. The IGF is a tremendous opportunity for stakeholders to connect, collaborate, and combine efforts to harness data and digital transformation to save the planet. The second step is to build a decentralised network of environmental data and analytics as a digital public good.

Mr Pablo Hinojosa (Strategic Engagement Director, APNIC) agreed that the co-operative model is the way to create environmental solutions. There is close to 68% of data gaps that need to be breached in order to measure progress towards the sustainable development goals (SDGs). A concrete proposal to breach data gaps on environmental issues rests on fostering collective data governance through the IGF, given the extensive participation of government officials, international and regional organisations, data scientists, space agencies, satellite companies, geospatial businesses, and climate change organisations. The IGF is the appropriate forum for these groups to meet, work together, and develop an environment data governance framework.