Green Digital Action: ITU welcomes partners to join for impact at COP28
The world is far behind schedule on Paris Agreement goals. Greenhouse gas emissions, after a dip due to the COVID-19 pandemic, are skyrocketing again, with no sign yet that the world is building back greener or better.
But new ways of thinking and doing are emerging, and new opportunities for collaboration can be leveraged to tackle the triple planetary crisis of climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss. The next United Nations climate change conference, COP28, offers a prime opportunity to showcase the value of digital climate action.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has set out to work with all partners committed to action to ensure green and digital transitions for the benefit of everyone. ITU – the UN agency for digital technologies – is encouraging companies and organizations from around the world to join together for Green Digital Action at COP28.
“Digital inequalities undermine our ability to act as one and accelerate climate action,” says ITU Secretary-General Doreen Bogdan-Martin. “ITU is an essential part of the equation in bringing the remaining one third of humanity online and driving the transition to net-zero emissions.”
Information and communication technologies (ICTs), including new and emerging digital technologies, play a crucial role in climate monitoring, climate change adaptation, including early warning systems, and mitigation measures, such as digital solutions to improve energy efficiency, build green and sustainable networks, and accelerate circular economy practices along the value chain.
“We need to heavily invest in digital infrastructure, because without it we are not going to be efficient,” says José María Álvarez Pallete, Chairman and CEO, Telefónica. “We can save between 15 and 30 per cent in carbon emissions over the next 20 years by using digital technology – and applying it to smart factories, smart cities, smart roads, smart agriculture. This is the kind of transformation that flows through the network.”
Digital tech can support industry decarbonization, agricultural resilience, water management, renewable energy transition, and biodiversity protection. For now, however, the rapid growth of today’s digital society continues to increase energy consumption, ICT-sector emissions, material use, and e-waste.
Aligning digital with a green future
To succeed in the long run, the global digital transformation needs to go hand in hand with the adoption of green and sustainable energy solutions and the transition to a circular economy. Responsible innovation and environmental and circular considerations must become integral in the design, deployment, and decommissioning of digital technologies.
“Collaboration is imperative for effective climate action,” adds Liv Marte Nordhaug, Co-Lead, Digital Public Goods Alliance. “The Digital Public Goods Alliance firmly believes that by working together to harness the power of open-source technology, we can unlock the cross-cutting solutions needed to address pressing climate challenges and pave the way to a more sustainable future.”
Innovative and rapidly evolving digital technologies have shown their value in responding to humanity’s most pressing challenges, including the climate crisis. The Paris Agreement, the Glasgow Climate Pact, and the Sharm El-Sheikh Adaptation Agenda all stress the need for emerging technologies to support climate mitigation, adaptation, and resilience measures, with each industry making its own transition.
“As the mobile industry, we recognise we have a big part to play in fighting the global climate crisis,” says Mats Granryd, Director General of mobile industry association GSMA. “To win this fight, we need everyone working together, acting across sectors to address this challenge, and developing solutions to build a more resilient and sustainable future for all.”
“The GSMA is proud to join ITU and other partners to highlight the role of digital in empowering a sustainable and green future,” says Granyrd, adding: 62 mobile operators have already committed to rapidly reducing their carbon emissions, but we cannot stop there.”
Kazu Takano, President of SENKO advanced components, concurs, saying: “SENKO is proud to support ITU and other partners in their mission to promote sustainability in the ICT industry. Together, I believe we can drive positive change, foster innovation, and create a greener future for all.”
International standards will be crucial to align digital technologies with a green and sustainable global future.
As Philippe Metzger, Secretary-General of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), notes: “IEC’s work facilitates off-grid energy access and enables the connection of renewable energy into existing power grids.”
Digital climate solutions can also align private sector innovation with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and ITU’s agenda to connect the world.
“Our belief is in the power of digital technology as an enabler of empowering societies and bridging digital divides,” explains Vivek Sood, Group Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Axiata.
Raising green digital ambitions
Green Digital Action discussions aim to raise the ambitions of the ICT sector in reducing its own footprint, in line with limiting the rise in average global temperatures to 1.5°C during the present century.
The COP28 climate talks taking place in Dubai, UAE, between 30 November and 12 December create a key moment to connect the wide-ranging tech industry with governments and civil society. ITU’s World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-23) is also happening in Dubai between 20 November and 15 December.
ITU brings together a global community of technology professionals from 193 Member States and over 900 companies, universities, research institutes and international organizations.
While the Green Digital Action track specifically targets COP28 participants, it will engage a wider range of participants through virtual platforms.
Government representatives, international organizations, UN agencies, ITU members, stakeholders in the ongoing World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) process development organizations, the private sector, civil society, youth leaders and academia are all encouraged to join.
Learn more about Green Digital Action at COP28.
Quotes in this article were provided by partners for Green Digital Action at COP28.