A UN-backed coalition of stakeholders from over 100 countries will today launch an Action Plan to steer 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. CODES is co-championed by 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.
“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, International Science Council Governing Board member and CODES co-champion.
The flagship CODES Action Plan, launched at 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.
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The Action Plan and the CODES initiative 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.
“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.”Inger Andersen, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme and CODES co-champion.
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:
- 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.
- Mitigate negative impact: Commitment to sustainable digitalisation 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.
- Accelerate innovation: Mobilize and catalyse 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, SMART 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 and work towards these three shifts. Examples of the Impact Initiatives include a new clearing house to co-define key standards for digital sustainability and economic circularity, a programme 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.
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. It has been created with a ‘strong emphasis on equity and on the needs of the Global South,’ according to Philip Thigo, Senior Digital Advisor to the Kenyan Government and CODES Co-Champion.
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.
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 forthcoming Summit of the Future and the Global Digital Compact in 2023.
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.