Fighting climate change with emerging technologies – for good or ill? – Flash 13 2019

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20 June 2019 | 16:00-16:30 | EVEREST 1 & 2
Consolidated programme 2019 overview

Session teaser

Can internet-dependent technologies provide an answer to rising alarm about the degradation of both the physical and online environment, or are they part of the problem?

Session description

The question for this flash session was twofold:

  1. Is the next generation of internet-dependent technologies providing technologically viable and sustainable responses to issues arising from global environmental degradation, or are they actually adding to these problems?
  2. As municipalities invest in digital – smart – city policies that depend on data-driven, and energy-intensive infrastructures and platforms is adequate attention being paid to both human rights compliance and environmental sustainability in the design and roll-out of these systems?

The work has only just begun to unpack both the positive and the negative relationships between R&D into the latest generation of digital and networked technologies (CCTV, Wifi tracking, 5G, IoT, AI), the long-term prospects for ‘Green City’ initiatives and how our increasing dependence on internet access may actually contribute to the symptoms of Climate Change (rising sea-levels, inner-city pollution, the degradation of the online environment) through inadequate human rights compliance.

The session continues conversations from the 2018 Internet Governance Forum meeting in Paris with the Internet Rights and Principles Coalition, and representatives from the Digital Cities Coalition (Amsterdam, Barcelona, New York). Join us for 30 minutes, 16.00-16.30 on Day 2 of EuroDIG for an open-mic session, with invited speakers.

MESSAGES from the session The main action points were:
1) Language matters so we should now be talking about Climate Crisis rather than Climate Change
2) There was a clear consensus that the proposition of this session was correct: R&D and investments into internet design, access, and use based on digital networked technologies and emerging applications are contributing to symptoms of climate crisis: rising sea levels, global warming, unsustainable energy uses, lack of adequate recycling for hardware components.
3) Toxic and inhuman working conditions for manufacturing and assembly of our devices, from smartphones to electric cars are degrading the environment and undermining fundamental rights and freedoms for respective workforces
4) All stakeholders, but governments and the private-technical sector in particular, need to make environmental sustainability an integral part of all internet policymaking agendas, and investment decisions into future technologies such as AI, Digital/Smart Cities, Internet of Things.
5) The internet and this planet's natural environment are mutually dependent - economically and technologically. Therefore recycling policies and commitments for enforcement need urgent improvement e.g for plastic waste, toxic E-Waste, mining of precious metals, energy uses for server farms and data centers.

Further reading


Moderator: Marianne Franklin (Internet Rights and Principles Coalition)

Opening Remarks: Michael Oghia (Global Forum for Media Development)

Thirty-five people joined the session including representatives from the Dutch and Finnish governments and other stakeholders.

All ages, strong views and clear arguments welcome.