Shaping a greener digital environment for all

18 December 2017 - A Workshop on Other in Geneva, Switzerland

Agenda

Proposer's Name: Ms. Emily Taylor
Proposer's Organization: Oxford Information Labs Limited
Co-Proposer's Name: Mr. Giovanni Seppia
Co-Proposer's Organization: EURid 
Co-Organizers:
Mr Giovanni Seppia, Technical Community, EURid
Ms Emily Taylor, Private sector, Oxford Information Labs Ltd


Session Format: Round Table - 90 Min

Proposer:
Country: United Kingdom
Stakeholder Group: Private Sector

Co-Proposer:
Country: Belgium
Stakeholder Group: Technical Community

Speaker: Mohamad Amin Hasbini
Speaker: Sarah Roberts
Speaker: Sabrina Abualhaiga
Speaker: Giovanni Seppia
Speaker: Jacob Malthouse
Speaker: Emily Taylor

Content of the Session:
The session will take a wide-ranging view of the environmental impact of internet technologies, and what steps need to be taken by all stakeholders to shape a greener digital future for all.

The overall theme of the roundtable is twofold: internet technologies are having an adverse environmental impact; at the same time internet technologies can reduce the impact of climate change in other contexts by increasing efficiency and reducing waste. The session will be forward looking, considering risks of emerging technologies for future generations. It will also highlight examples of good practice by industry players which could be used as a model by others.

Framed as a moderated round-table discussion, which will bring together diverse stakeholders with a broad spectrum of expertise, the 90 minute session will focus on answering the following questions:

• What is the environmental impact of current and future technologies, hardware, software, cloud services and internet of things, and to what extent are consumers aware of it?
• How are businesses and governments reducing the carbon footprint of their current and future digital installations?
• What are the environmental risks if insufficient action is taken?
• What actions need to be taken by different stakeholders to ensure that we have an environmentally sustainable digital future, and what factors are preventing sufficient action being taken?

The emphasis will be on future, practical actions and policy measures that can be applied by all stakeholders to shape a green future digital environment for all.

Relevance of the Session:
Climate change is one of the most urgent challenges facing humanity and collective action is required to shape a more environmentally sustainable digital future. The sustainable development goals recognise the challenge of climate change - relevant to this roundtable are SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production), 13 (climate action) 15 (life on land).

Internet technologies may seem like 'clean' industries, yet the carbon emissions from technology are estimated to outstrip those of the airline industry.

Data centres, cloud services, increased uptake and reliance on digital technologies all create a significant environmental impact such as power and water consumption. At the level of individual Internet users, it is estimated that a user reading the first two words of a web page in a browser generates 20 milligrams of CO2; and 2 Google searches generate the same CO2 as boiling a kettle.

While much remains to be done to reduce such impact, there are signs of progress and good practices which this roundtable will highlight.

Public awareness of the environmental impact of the Internet is low. The metaphors we use to describe internet technologies, 'virtual' 'cloud', incorrectly imply that these services have no physicality. The market drives consumers to upgrade their devices at regular intervals, creating mountains of techno-garbage which are often shipped from the Global North to the Global South for reprocessing. Increased miniturization means that it is more challenging to repurpose or recycle such devices, exposing workers in the Global South to dangerous, toxic conditions. This is relevant to the Internet Governance Forum because the environmental impact of digital devices is significant, yet is rarely considered within the IGF. All stakeholders have a role in overcoming these challenges.

The emerging Internet Governance issue of Internet of Things (IoT) needs to be considered through the lens of its environmental impact. Smart cities, industrial and agricultural applications of IoT can help to combat climate change, for example by increasing efficiency, reducing water and energy consumption, improving road traffic flows to reduce emissions. The economic benefits of having 20 billion connected devices by 2020 should be assessed against their possible, adverse effects on climate and nature.

Tag 1: Environmental Impact of ICTs
Tag 2: Climate Change
Tag 3: Internet & ICTs for the Sustainable Development Goals

Interventions:
Question 1: What is the environmental impact of current and future technologies, hardware, software, cloud services and internet of things, and to what extent are people aware of it?

This will be addressed primarily by participants from the academic community. A speaker from Chatham House / World Economic Forum (TBC), specialising in climate change will set the scene on the pace of climate change, the environmental footprint of digital industries, and how digitisation is helping reduce consumption in other areas.

Dr Sarah T Roberts of UCLA (confirmed) will address the environmental impact of the techno-trash of devices, and the impact on the Global South.

A speaker from the European Commission (TBC), government (LAC or AP region, TBC), or IGO will address relevant regulatory frameworks aimed at reducing the environmental impact of internet technologies, and using internet technologies to reduce climate change. All participants will be encouraged to engage with the question.

Question 2: How are businesses, governments and civil society reducing the carbon footprint of their current and future digital installations?

Giovanni Seppia of EURid (co-organiser, confirmed) will describe how EURid has reduced its carbon footprint since 2011 through the adoption of the EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). Jacob Malthouse from the .eco domain name registry (confirmed) will provide evidence of its environmentally friendly approach as an internet registry.

A speaker from one of the major Internet technology multinationals (TBC) will describe their efforts to reduce the environmental impact of data centres and defend their record on the recyclability of mobile devices.

Mohamad Amin Hasbini of Kaspersky Labs and a director of Smartcities.org, will describe how Dubai Smart City (a government led project) aims to use IoT deployments to reduce environmental impact of technology and the rapidly expanding city of Dubai.

A civil society representative (TBC) will describe environmentally conscious internet access projects (eg Amazonian rainforest or India). All participants will be encouraged to engage with the question.

Question 3: What are the environmental risks if insufficient action is taken?
This section of the discussion will be led by Sabrina Abualhaiga, Youth IGF Ambassador (confirmed), who will describe the risks for future generations of failing to reduce the environmental impact of internet technologies. Other participants, both planned speakers and audience members will be encouraged to develop ideas on the likely environmental impact of failure to take collect action.

Question 4: What actions need to be taken by different stakeholders to ensure that we have an environmentally sustainable digital future, and what factors are preventing sufficient action being taken?

All speakers and participants will discuss this final question, and ideally point to concrete steps that each stakeholder group is taking or will commit to taking to shape a greener future digital environment for all.

Diversity:
The co-organisers have a strong track record in assembling IGF participants with diversity in gender, geography, stakeholder group, disability and viewpoint, and will adopt a similar approach to gathering participants for this roundtable.

Our confirmed participants include three women and three men. We aim for at least 50/50 gender balance.

We have confirmed participants from the United States, United Arab Emirates, France, Italy, United Kingdom and Belgium. We are actively approaching participants from Latin America, Asia Pacific and Africa to join the roundtable discussion.

Onsite Moderator: Emily Taylor
Online Moderator: Sebastien Pensis, EURid
Rapporteur: Emily Taylor

Online Participation:
The remote moderator will monitor and stimulate discussions in the virtual meeting space. The moderator will regularly report on activity within the virtual meeting room, and will interact with remote participants throughout the session.

The session moderator will call on the remote moderator to feed in comments and chat conversations from the virtual meeting space at several points during the roundtable discussions.

The remote moderator will also liaise with remote participants who wish to make audio interventions during the roundtable session.

The co-organisers have extensive experience of blending remote participation (even remote speakers) into a live session and encouraging participation from those outside the physical