Global, multi-stakeholder digital coalition presents plan for a green digital revolution

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

2 June 2022, Stockholm+50 Conference: UN-backed coalition of 1,000 stakeholders from over 100 countries today launched an Action Plan to steer the digitalization towards accelerating environmentally and socially sustainable development. The Coalition for Digital Environmental Sustainability (CODES) aims to help reorient and prioritize the application of digital technologies to meet the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and address the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution and waste.

The flagship CODES Action Plan, launched during the Stockholm+50 international environmental meeting, proposes a comprehensive and strategic approach to embed sustainability in all aspects of digitalization. This includes building globally inclusive processes to define standards and governance frameworks for digital sustainability, allocating the necessary resources and infrastructure, and identifying opportunities to reduce potential harms or risks from digitalization.

The Action Plan and the CODES movement was inspired by the need for collective action across governments, the private sector, civil society and academia to accelerate the adoption and scaling of digital technologies for sustainability. Shaping the outcomes of the digital revolution to achieve global sustainability is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that must be realized before the window of opportunity closes. Digitalization has the potential to help transform society and business models and it is a critical tool to help build a healthier, safer, cleaner and more equitable future.

Addressing the need for new regulation over the digital space and for collaboration to ensure that digital transformation plays a positive social-environmental role, the Action Plan calls for 3 systemic shifts:

  1. Enable alignment: Strong, global coalitions of sustainability and digital-tech experts will help shape common visions, standards and objectives to prioritize the investments and resources needed to systemically align digital transformation with our sustainable development agenda.
  2. Mitigate negative impact: Commitment to sustainable digitalization that mitigates the negative environmental and social impacts of digital technologies. Key impacts include greenhouse gas emissions, metals and e-waste, misinformation, and the gap between those who have access to digital technology and those who do not.
  3. Accelerate innovation: Mobilize and catalyze funding and resources to advance digital innovation that accelerates environmental and social sustainability for the “whole-of-society”. Examples include digital twins of the planet, digital product passports, sustainable digital e-commerce, climate resilient agriculture and digitally enabled off-grid solutions.

The plan proposes a set of nine measurable global Impact Initiatives to inspire and provoke collective action, to progress the three shifts. Examples of these Impact Initiatives include a new clearing house to co-define key standards for digital sustainability and economic circularity, a program to strengthen research and education for digitally enabled sustainable development, a sustainable procurement and infrastructure pledge, and a network of Digital Sustainability Innovation Hubs to address regional needs.

CODES is calling upon governments, civil society, digital companies, and other private sector actors to endorse the Action Plan and to engage in the immediate implementation of the Impact Initiatives.

CODES will act as a “docking station” for the nine Impact Initiatives, offering coordination, sharing of expertise and mobilizing resources. All efforts will continue to be part of the implementation process for the Secretary General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation and will feed into the coming Summit of the Future and the Global Digital Compact in 2023.

The Action Plan for a Sustainable Planet in the Digital Age is the result of over a year of consultations combined with a co-design process across the CODES coalition of around one thousand stakeholders.

Quotes from CODES Co-Champions

Digital transformation must be governed as one of the key sustainability issues for the global community today. We can’t afford to fail to align the disruptive forces of digital change with our common sustainable development goals

  • Dirk Messner, President of the German Environment Agency and CODES Co-Champion.

One of the many strengths of the CODES Action Plan is that it was co-created with a strong emphasis on equity and on the needs of the Global South. Digital technologies must ultimately support our well-being everywhere on the planet. The regional network of Digital Sustainability Innovation Hubs proposed by the Action Plan are a critical pillar to meet the needs of the Global South in an inclusive and just manner for both urban and rural communities.”

  • Philip Thigo, Senior Digital Advisor to the Kenyan Government and CODES Co-Champion.

“The CODES Action Plan is a critical part of implementing the Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation. In addition, it provides much valued inputs to be considered for the Global Digital Compact that the United Nations is working on now, as part of the Summit of the Future next September; as well as the way forward on these issues. This is a long-term collective effort and we are proud to be part of this global movement.”

  • Maria Francesca-Spatolisano, Acting Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology.

Digitalization is changing the way the world works, but the new world of work must be a sustainable one. It is critical that digital innovations and technologies accelerate environmental sustainability. UNEP is committed to supporting CODES and digital sustainability as a core part of our new Digital Transformation programme.

  • Inger Andersen, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme and CODES co-champion.

Digitalization - the use and adoption of digital technologies – is driving massive economic, social and environmental change that can either deepen or close inequalities. The future of humanity and the health of planet Earth will be significantly shaped by this transformation. UNDP is committed to support a transformation that offers a greener and more just future that leaves no one behind.”

  • Achim Steiner, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and CODES co-champion

To unlock the vast potential of digital innovations to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, we need a common science-based framework of global action aimed at systems transformation to leverage digitalization in our efforts towards a sustainable planet.

  • Geoffrey Boulton of the International Science Council and CODES co-champion.

“Stockholm+50 is a critical forum and international milestone to update, integrate and mainstream digitalization opportunities and risks into the sustainable development policy agenda. It is a pivotal moment to forge a common vision and set of values to navigate the close interplay of digital technology, environment and sustainable development concerns,”

  • Eliane Ubalijoro, Global Hub Director, Future Earth Canada & Executive Director, Sustainability in the Digital Age, and CODES co-champion

Media Contact Information for Questions and Interviews:

  • Keishamaza Rukikaire <rukikaire [at] un [dot] org>, Head of News and Media, UNEP Communications Division
  • Martin Ittershagen <martin [dot] ittershagen [at] uba [dot] de> German Environmental Agency
  • Philip Thigo <Philip [dot] Thigo [at] thunderbird [dot] asu [dot] edu> Senior Advisor, Innovations and Open Government - Presidency - Kenya
  • Josie Raine <josie [dot] raine [at] undp [dot] org>, Communication Specialist, Nature Climate and Energy Team, United Nations Development Programme
  • Fan Zhang <fan [dot] zhang [at] un [dot] org>, Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology
  • Rachelle Fox <rachelle [dot] fox [at] futureearth [dot] org>, Future Earth & Sustainability in the Digital Age
  • Alison Meston <Alison [dot] meston [at] council [dot] science>, International Science Council

About CODES:

The Coalition for Digital Environmental Sustainability (CODES) is a global, engagement platform for governments, companies and civil society established as mandated part of the implementation process for the UN Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation. CODES’ vision is a digital transformation of the economy and society that enables a sustainable and equitable future for all. It is co-championed by a unique mix of actors including UNEP, UNDP, the International Science Council, the German Environment Agency, Future Earth, Sustainability in the Digital Age, and the Kenyan Environment Ministry in coordination with the Office of the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Technology. They all rally behind the mission to drive forward public policies, standards and collaborations that harness digital transformation to become a positive force for environmental sustainability, climate action and nature conservation. Link: 

About Stockholm +50:

Stockholm+50 will commemorate the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment and celebrate 50 years of global environmental action. By recognizing the importance of multilateralism in tackling the Earth’s triple planetary crisis – climate, nature, and pollution – the event aims to act as a springboard accelerate the implementation of the UN Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals, including the 2030 Agenda, Paris Agreement on climate change, the post-2020 global Biodiversity Framework, and encourage the adoption of green post-COVID-19 recovery plans.

About UNEP

The United Nations Environmental Programme is the voice for the environment within the United Nations system. UNEP acts as a catalyst, advocate, educator and facilitator to promote the wise use and sustainable development of the global environment. UNEP’s digital transformation programme aims to harness digital technologies to accelerate solutions to the triple planetary crisis: climate action, nature protection and pollution prevention. 

About UNDP

UNDP partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis, and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone. On the ground in nearly 170 countries and territories, we offer global perspective and local insight to help empower lives and build resilient nations.

About UBA

The German Environment Agency (UBA) is the scientific environmental authority under the jurisdiction of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, responsible for the most diverse range of topics. UBA assumes responsibility for the protection of the environment and of humankind against adverse environmental factors. The importance of its analyses and recommendations for political decision-making and its independence from lobbying interests make UBA a unique environmental institution in Germany.

About the Kenyan Ministry of Environment and Forestry

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry is mandated to protect, conserve and manage the environment and natural resources for socio-economic development in Kenya. It works to facilitate good governance in the protection, restoration, conservation, development and management of the environment and natural resources for equitable and sustainable development.

About Future Earth

Future Earth is working towards a sustainable global future by developing a deeper understanding of complex Earth systems and human dynamics across disciplines. It looks closely at the interconnectedness of Earth’s major systems–climate, water, land, ocean, urban, economic, energy, health, biodiversity, and governance systems–and develops evidence-based strategies for global sustainable development.

About Sustainability in the Digital Age

Sustainability in the Digital Age is leveraging the digital age to drive transformative system changes for a climate-safe, sustainable, and equitable world.

About the International Science Council

The International Science Council (ISC) is a non-governmental organization that convenes the scientific expertise and resources needed to lead on catalyzing, incubating and coordinating impactful international action. It is the largest organization of its kind to bring together natural and social sciences for the global public good, with a membership of more than 200 international scientific unions and associations as well as national and regional scientific organizations including academies and research councils.

About the Office of the Secretary-General’s UN Envoy on Technology

The Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology leads the implementation of the Secretary-General’s Roadmap on Digital Cooperation and the informal preparation for the Global Digital Compact as part of the Secretary-General’s Common Agenda, coordinating the range of actions envisaged therein and working closely with the various United Nations entities and multi-stakeholder groups, so as to ensure that there is overall coherence, with full respect for the mandates of different United Nations entities. It also serves as an advocate and focal point for digital cooperation so that Member States, the private sector, civil society, academic and technical communities, and other stakeholders have a first port of call for the broader United Nations system.

German Environment Agency

Wörlitzer Platz 1
06844 Dessau-Roßlau

Printer-friendly version
 CODES  digitalisation