Comments on the Action Plan for a Sustainable Planet in the Digital Age

The UN Secretary-General has said that “the digital revolution can be steered to combat climate change and advance global sustainability, environmental stewardship and human well-being.”

For that reason, the Coalition for Digital Environmental Sustainability (CODES) initiative has been recently launched as an important part of the broader follow-up to the Secretary-General's Roadmap on Digital Cooperation. CODES was initiated by UNEP, UNDP, the International Science Council, the German Environment Agency, the Kenyan Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Future Earth and Sustainability in the Digital Age, and now is leading a global multi-stakeholder process.

In this context, its first mission is to co-develop an “Action Plan for a Sustainable Planet in the Digital Age” to identify the key shifts and strategic priorities needed to harness digital technologies to accelerate environmentally and socially sustainable development. Taking advantage of one of the last spaces to present observations to this plan, the Latin American Institute of Terraforming sent a document with its comments this month. Among the most critical points that we believe can be reinforced in the draft presented, we highlight:

- First, we hope that the representation of the situation of the Global South will be strengthened in the action plan, as it seems to be too focused on Europe. This is crucial because the Global South is experiencing the harshest effects of the climate and ecological crisis and because the socio-environmental problems that digital technologies represent today are nothing more than the continuity of colonial relations of capitalist exploitation.

- We also believe that widely used concepts such as “environmental justice” should be recognized and deepened in the action plan. In this sense, multi-stakeholders should ask themselves how environmental justice is realized with and through digitalization, embracing democratic, transparent, and binding social participation processes.

- Based on the evidence in Latin America and taking into account SGDs goal 6 and other UN reports, we suggest that the action plan acknowledges the relationship between the water crisis and the deployment of technologies more prominently.

- In consideration of the utmost planetary urgency to drastically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and the lack of scientific consensus on the rebound effect led by digitization, the Latin American Institute of Terraforming, as it has done with other international digital governance bodies, urges the CODES process to encourage industry and governments to adopt the precautionary principle, limited in time, until better evidence and multidisciplinary scientific consensus on the actual impacts of ICTs on GHG emissions is obtained.

- We also think it's essential that the CODES' text highlights the diverse and complex ways in which misinformation and disinformation around the climate and ecological crisis occur, including how some Governments and companies are actively using these campaigns and the lack of response to these actions in countries of the Global South by large Internet corporations.

- In addition, we believe that the document should add and highlight the need to ensure that climate norms, policies, and actions taken in the context of the development of digital technologies guarantee that they do not negatively affect people's human rights. Nor should the excuse of climate action be used to violate their rights.

Click here if you want to read other suggestions and access the full document.