On March 19 on what is called Digital Day, 26 technology companies in Europe signed a pledge to develop “digital green solutions” to help the world tackle climate change by curbing carbon emissions and digitally transforming key economic sectors.
What is Happening?
- The pledge is called the European Green Digital Coalition, which was spearheaded by the European Commission.
- Signatories include Microsoft, Ericsson, Vodafone and Bolt. These technology companies have gone a step further to tackle climate change, by each committing to become carbon-neutral by no later than 2040.
- The last decade has been the warmest on record and scientists say that without urgent intervention to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, the planet will face a future of heat waves, food shortages and mass extinctions.
Inger Anderson, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), says, “We are in a race against time to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Only digital technologies move at the speed and scale necessary to achieve the kind of dramatic reduction in emissions that we need to see in the next 10 years.”
Casper Klynge, Microsoft’s Vice-President for European Government Affairs, says, “Now is the time for increased collaboration and innovation to tackle the climate crisis. This Coalition goes beyond a simple pledge, with EU institutions and industry joining forces to advance shared climate ambitions, by accelerating investment in innovative digital solutions for the benefit of Europe’s sustainable future.”
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- The pact is part of an effort to use data and digital tools to encourage politicians, business leaders and consumers to embrace sustainable consumption and production.
- The tech sector is responsible for up to 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Data centres that mine for the cryptocurrency Bitcoin alone consumed up to 0.3% of the world’s electricity in 2019, as much as Belgium.
- According to a report by the International Telecommunications Union, a UN body, digital technologies could help reduce the world’s carbon emissions by about 17%. For example, artificial intelligence could help to make electric transmission grids more efficient, while blockchain technology could allow citizens to track corporate carbon emissions and satellites can be further enhanced in monitoring environmental changes including activities such as illegal logging, mining and waste dumping. However, the UNEP says that consistent metrics need to be developed to measure the impact of technology on the environment, which will be important in minimising the negative consequences of digitalisation.
- As digitalisation continues to advance, it will be important for countries to harness its power while respecting the rights of their citizens. Andersen says, “We are standing at a pivotal moment in human history. Decisions we take today to address environmental challenges and the governance of digital technology will set off a chain reaction that will determine the trajectory of life on this planet.”
- Meanwhile, on March 19, European nations also signed a pledge to support what they called “clean digital technologies.” Countries vowed to, among other things, build 5G and 6G networks while backing blockchain technology, quantum computing and artificial intelligence.