German Environment Agency co-champions global initiative for digital environmental sustainability

UNEP, UNDP, the International Science Council, UBA, the Kenyan Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Future Earth, and Sustainability in the Digital Age launched the new flagship initiative CODES (Coalition for Digital Environmental Sustainability)

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

In support of the UN Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation and in collaboration with the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology, the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Development Programme, the International Science Council, the German Environment Agency, the Government of Kenya, Future Earth, and Sustainability in the Digital Age have joined forces to act as co-champions for a new global initiative called CODES (Coalition for Digital Environmental Sustainability).

CODES is an open stakeholder coalition established to firmly anchor environmental sustainability needs within the Digital Cooperation Roadmap. Through co-design and implementation of a common vision rooted in shared values, the initiative will work to accelerate a digital planet for sustainability that values thriving natural ecosystems, human wellbeing and community resilience. The co-champions will organize meetings, shape discussions, issue flagship reports and help forge collaborations towards an Acceleration Plan for Digitalizing Environmental Sustainability.

The Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation fully recognizes the importance of digital technologies for environment and climate action: "The recent advances in technology offer ground-breaking opportunities to monitor and protect the environment, as well as overall planetary health. By harnessing them appropriately, the digital revolution can be steered to combat climate change and advance global sustainability, environmental stewardship and human well-being".

To advance this goal, the CODES co-champions will establish an open multi-stakeholder process to pool excellence and application-oriented knowledge on digitalization for sustainability transformation. This will include identifying step-wise priorities, establishing a decentralized coordination framework, sharing lessons learned, surfacing innovative initiatives, and agreeing on global investment priorities for sustainable digital transformations. The hope is to collectively influence how public and private sector funding is spent to build a digital planet for sustainability in terms of the data, standards, safeguards, infrastructure, public-private partnerships and digital public goods. In particular, identifying the kind of digital public goods, infrastructure, incentives and enabling policies that are needed to unlock commercial and non-commercial investment in thriving inclusive nature positive economies.

To achieve these goals, CODES will support a set of global challenges within the Acceleration Plan. The CODES initiative will call on members to adopt measurable and time bound commitments to make investments in digital sustainability that help shift millions of products, billions of consumers and trillions of finances towards shared digital sustainability goals. The CODES initiators contribute to monitor progress against the “millions, billions, trillions” targets and will report back to the UN Secretary-General and the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology."

As a co-champion of the CODES initiative, the German Environment Agency plans to set up an "Artificial Intelligence and Big Data Application Laboratory" to test the applicability of AI methods for environmental monitoring, especially with global satellite remote sensing data, and to develop concrete applications for environmental protection and the achievement of sustainability goals. The German Environment Agency is thus supporting the German Environment Ministry's environmental digital agenda as well as the implementation of the EU Council recommendations to promote sustainable digitalisation as part of the European Green Deal of December 2020.

“With only less than half of the world population currently online, even as we try to bring about universal connectivity by 2030 so that all people can enjoy the benefits of digital technology and online space, we will place even greater pressures on our planet.” said Assistant Secretary-General Maria-Francesca Spatolisano, Officer in Charge, Office of the Envoy on Technology, United Nations. “Shaping a greener future for our planet is too big a task for any country, industry or organization to take on alone. We thus commend the initiative taken by the CODES co-champions and look forward to working with all of you in this exciting new initiative.”


  1. Supporting the UN General Assembly Debate on Digital Connectivity and Cooperation planned for 27 April 2021.
  2. Hosting a first CODES roundtable to discuss the draft report and agenda for “A Digital Planet for Sustainability” on 7 May 2021.
  3. Delivering a global CODES conference for organizations that are actively contributing to building “A Digital Planet for Sustainability”. The conference will work towards defining an “Acceleration Plan on Digital Environmental Sustainability” and will be held from 10-11 June 2021.
  4. Hosting a second CODES roundtable to discuss the draft Acceleration Plan on Digital Environmental Sustainability in July 2021.
  5. Publishing an “Acceleration Plan on a Digital Planet for Sustainability: Shifting Millions of Products, Billions of Consumers and Trillions of Dollars” as an input to the meetings of the 76th session UN General Assembly in September 2021.
  6. Establishing a CODES programme board to manage and monitor the commitment framework and provide strategic advice to the CODES initiative.

For more information, please visit the engagement platform SparkBlue or contact:

UNEP: David Jensen (david [dot] jensen [at] un [dot] org)
UNDP: Marie-Ange Zibi (marie-ange [dot] zibi [at] undp [dot] org), Reina Otsuka (reina [dot] otsuka [at] undp [dot] org)
German Environment Agency: Press office (presse [at] uba [dot] de)
International Science Council: Megha Sud (megha [dot] sud [at] council [dot] science)
Kenyan Ministry of Environment and Forestry: (Philip [dot] Thigo [at] thunderbird [dot] asu [dot] edu)
Future Earth & Sustainability in the Digital Age: Nilufar Sabet-Kassouf (nilufar [dot] sabet-kassouf [at] futureearth [dot] org)

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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