For digital environmental sustainability worldwide

International CODES Initiative discusses accelerating environment and climate action through equitable digitalisation

Die Erdkugel und Wörter in einer Programmiersprache.Click to enlarge
CODES: a new global initiative to advance digital environmental sustainability
Source: Pete Linforth / Pixabay

How can the immense potential of digitalisation be tapped for the benefit of all without consuming excessive resources and energy? These and other questions were discussed by over 150 international experts with the support of the German Environment Agency (UBA) at the virtual conference of the Coalition for Digital Environmental Sustainability (CODES) on 30 June and 1 July 2021. The conference identified better data availability on climate and environmental protection worldwide and the development of climate-neutral digital infrastructures as priority fields for more environmental protection and more participation through digitalisation. Strengthening digitalisation at institutional level is also essential, for example through an international emergency programme for the digital modernisation of global environmental and sustainability institutions, to include global environmental research on digitalisation.

Digitalisation is a central driver of economic and social change. It poses major challenges for industrialised, emerging and developing countries alike. At the same time, climate change and the worldwide destruction of the natural resources are intensifying risks. The current COVID-19 pandemic in particular shows how social and ecological crises are mutually reinforcing – and how important projects such as global poverty reduction suffer major setbacks due to pandemics. "The future viability of humankind will be measured above all by the extent to which it succeeds in finding new ways to achieve greater resilience in the face of increasing environmental risks and social conflicts. The availability and accessibility of digital infrastructure as well as the widespread use of digital technologies have become a key success factor for this more than ever before," says UBA President Dirk Messner.

The conference also highlighted that unregulated digitalisation does not automatically lead to globally equitable prosperity and greater ecological sustainability. UBA President Dirk Messner summarised his insights as follows: "As long as digitalisation is mainly oriented towards short-term economic profitability, we will fail to exploit its potential to achieve more sustainability and equal opportunities. To build globally accessible digital infrastructures and strengthen society's capacity deal with digital technologies, we need a globally well-positioned framework for action and partnerships so that we can launch the necessary capacities and investments for digital sustainability".

Another important aspect is that central social institutions must be empowered to modernise and effect their own digital transformation. "The digital capability of institutions is a crucial factor for sustainability transformation," said Messner. He proposed launching a digital investment and modernisation programme for global environmental and sustainability policy in the next few years that would strengthen globally networked environmental expertise through multilateral open data governance. Such a programme would better coordinate environmental protection measures globally and make them transparent.

Further information:

CODES – Coalition for Digital Environmental Sustainability is an initiative launched and co-championed by the German Environment Agency, ⁠UNEP⁠, UNDP, ISC, Kenya and Future Earth on 31 March 2021 in support of UN Secretary-General Guterres' Roadmap on Digital Cooperation. The aim is to draft a global action plan to promote international climate and environmental protection through more equitability in digitalisation.

Coalition for Digital Environmental Sustainability (CODES): Speech by UBA President Dirk Messner

Coalition for Digital Environmental Sustainability (CODES): Speech by UBA President Dirk Messner

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