IGF 2023 Lightning Talk #3 The Internet’s Carbon Curse: Can We Break It?

Sunday, 8th October, 2023 (00:00 UTC) - Sunday, 8th October, 2023 (00:30 UTC)
SC – Room H

Sustainability & Environment
Digital Technologies to Achieve Sustainable Development Goals
Existing and New Technologies as Climate Risks

Sustainability & Environment

Gabriel Karsan
Gabriel Karsan Emerging Youth Initiative Civil Society Group Africa Region

Edinam Lily Botsoye University of Cinncinatti Academia Group America Region

Thoko Miya GirlsHype Initiative Private Sector Africa Group

ENERST  MAFUTA  KATOKA Chair Affordable  Internet  Access SIG - Internet Society


Edinam Lily Botsoye University of Cinncinatti Academia Group America Region

Dr. Monojit Das PhD Internet Governance Researcher Asia Group

ENERST  MAFUTA  KATOKA Chair Affordable  Internet  Access SIG - Internet Society

Onsite Moderator

Gabriel Karsan

Online Moderator

Thoko Miya


Ernest Mafuta


7. Affordable and Clean Energy
9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
12. Responsible Production and Consumption
13. Climate Action
17. Partnerships for the Goals

Targets: Here are som connections to SDGs - SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy. The session will discuss how to reduce the energy consumption and emissions of the internet and its users, and how to promote the use of renewable energy sources and technologies in the internet infrastructure and services. - SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. The session will explore how to foster innovation and sustainable development in the internet industry, and how to build resilient and inclusive internet infrastructure that can support social and economic growth and connectivity for all people. - SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production. The session will address how to encourage responsible consumption and production patterns among internet users and stakeholders, and how to minimize the environmental impact and waste of the internet devices, platforms and services. - SDG 13: Climate Action. The session will highlight how the internet contributes to the global climate crisis, and how it can also be a tool for climate action, education, awareness and collaboration among different actors and sectors. - SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals. The session will demonstrate how to strengthen partnerships among different stakeholders, such as governments, civil society, private sector, technical community and intergovernmental organizations, to achieve a greener and more equitable internet that can support the achievement of the SDGs.


Our talk is a deep dive interactive dialogue with the speaker with a deep interview focused format on our theme, employing storytelling techniques. 10minutes will be set for a collaborative Q&A insight collection and collective live reaction and discussion on our topic.

Duration (minutes)



the internet is a powerful force for good, connecting us to information, opportunities and each other. But behind the scenes, it also consumes vast amounts of energy and resources, emitting greenhouse gases and exacerbating social and economic disparities. In this lightning talk, we will expose the hidden costs of our digital lifestyles and explore some innovative solutions for a greener and more equitable internet. addresing the following questions: What is the carbon footprint of the internet and how does it affect the global climate emergency? What are the main culprits and contributors of this impact? How can we reduce the environmental burden of the internet and its users? What are some inspiring examples and best practices of green internet initiatives and policies? How can we ensure that the internet is not only green, but also inclusive, affordable and accessible for all people, especially those in developing countries and marginalized communities? How can we harness the internet as a catalyst for climate action, education, awareness and collaboration? How can we cultivate a culture of digital responsibility and literacy among internet users and stakeholders? Some of the solutions we aim to present and discuss with partcipants Using online tools and platforms that measure and offset your digital carbon footprint, for personal agency accountability and contribution Choosing devices, platforms and services that use renewable energy, circular design and ethical practices, example Green Web Foundation and The Green Net Adjusting your online habits and settings to save energy and bandwidth, like simply reducing video quality, turning off autoplay, deleting unused apps and files, and using dark mode to mention a few. Supporting green internet initiatives and policies that promote sustainability and inclusion Using the internet as a tool for climate action, education, awareness and collaboration with emerging Technologies recalibrated for green innovation principles.

We aim to fully utilize the platforms and tools that allow for real-time communication and collaboration among onsite and online participants with interactivity such as equal space such as chat, with Q&A and mentimeter poll to boost arguments and dialogue. The moderator will Encourage dynamic with story themed and data backed provisions and make the dialogue resourceful and with vivd experiences encouraging to ask questions and provide feedback, both verbally and in writing, using the online platforms and tools.

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

A reset and reinvention of the processes, methodologies and mechanism of internet based innovation should be modeled after a structure of inclusive human oriented inclusive use, Eco-friendly by design from policy to operation of the internet innovations and infrastructure.

The role of users specifically the youth demographic should be empowered to be sustainable in terms of technology consumption and coordination of thought leadership provision that intersects a digital reset for the communication, transportation and energy intersections with the help of emerging technologies to reverse and fix the gaps of internet based emissions

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

A digital reset for the social, economical and political structure of society geared towards sustainable innovation

The digital phycology shouldn’t omit its contribution to current state of rapid climate change, rather counteract with policy frameworks and accountability structures modeled after the equal footed multi stakeholders approach

Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

Breaking the Internet's Carbon Curse: A Report by the Emerging Youth Initiative



The Internet is often seen as a virtual world that transcends physical boundaries and limitations. However, the Internet is not immaterial or invisible. It relies on a complex and vast infrastructure of cables, servers, routers, devices, and applications that consume energy and emit carbon dioxide. The Internet is also not neutral or universal. It reflects and reproduces the existing inequalities and injustices in the distribution and access of energy and digital resources. The Internet is, therefore, both a challenge and an opportunity for achieving environmental sustainability and social justice.


How can we harness the power of the Internet to create a more sustainable and inclusive world? How can we reduce the environmental impact of the Internet while expanding its benefits for society? How can we balance the need for digital inclusion with the need for environmental protection? These are some of the questions that motivated and guided this report, which presents the findings and recommendations from the Emerging Youth Initiative (EYI) network, a group of young digital thought leaders who participated in an interactive session at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) 2023.


The Emerging Youth Initiative believes that youth have a vital role to play in shaping the future of the Internet and its governance. We believe that the Internet can be a catalyst for innovation and transformation that supports green policy and consumer choices. Our vision is to empower meaningful digital transformation for youth by collaborating on projects, events, and advocacy campaigns that address the issues of Internet governance and sustainability.


This report is based on the  session at the IGF 2023 titled " the Internet's Carbon Curse, Can  we break it and the workshop How to Achieve a Sustainable Internet". The sessions was designed to engage the IGF community in a dialogue about the challenges and opportunities of reducing the digital carbon footprint. The session also featured a dialogue work through from a panelist that illustrated the life cycle of ICT and Internet technology from sourcing materials to end usage and disposal.


The report aims to share the insights and outcomes of the session with a wider audience, as well as to provide concrete actions and recommendations for different stakeholder groups to achieve a sustainable Internet.


The Emerging Youth Initiative has  a network of young professionals, activists, and researchers who are interested in the issues of Internet governance and sustainability. Our  network's mission is to empower meaningful digital transformation for youth by collaborating on projects, events, and advocacy campaigns.


We organized a session at the IGF 2023 titled "the Internet's Carbon: can we break it ". The session was held on day 0 October 8, 2023, and attracted participants from different stakeholder groups, such as governments, civil society, academia, and private sector.


 Our session used an open-ended question methodology to engage the participants in a dialogue about the challenges and opportunities of reducing the digital carbon footprint. 


The inclusive design approach of moderation featured a dynamic discussion with participants on these thought schools that debated around the below thematic statement: 


: "Digitization is here to stay, cutting back energy use when there’s a digital divide is unrealistic. How can we balance the need for digital inclusion with the need for environmental protection?"



Digitization is inevitable and beneficial for society, but also recognized that it has a negative environmental impact. The concern still exists  about the unequal distribution of energy and digital resources among different regions and communities, which creates a digital divide and exacerbates social inequalities.


Though several factors contribute to the digital carbon footprint, such as inefficient energy use, reliance on fossil fuels, lack of recycling and reuse, and consumer behavior possible solutions such as improving energy efficiency, increasing renewable energy sources, extending device lifespan, and promoting user awareness are potent measures to reduce the digital carbon footprint 


 ICT and Internet technologies play an  enabler role to  other interlinking sectors to reduce their carbon emissions by providing solutions for smart transportation, smart buildings, smart agriculture, and smart manufacturing. Emphasis should be put on the need for careful design and implementation of these solutions to avoid rebound effects or environmental unintended consequences.



  •    Governments should adopt policies and regulations that incentivize green ICT practices, such as carbon taxes, subsidies, standards, and labels.
  •   Private sector should innovate on better climate offsets through collaborative spaces on green tech, open grid, and climate data insight solutions. They should also invest in renewable energy sources and adopt circular economy principles.
  •   Civil society should advocate for digital sustainability issues and hold governments and the private sector accountable for their actions. They should also educate and empower users to make informed choices about their digital consumption.
  •   Academia should conduct research on the environmental impact of ICT and Internet technologies and develop solutions that minimize their carbon footprint. They should also collaborate with other stakeholder groups to share knowledge and best practices.
  •  Media should play a critical role in digital sustainability reportage with evidence-backed sources and objective climate agendas. They should also counter misinformation and disinformation spread by digital platforms that contribute to their carbon emissions.
  •  Users should adopt responsible digital behavior, such as reducing unnecessary online activities, choosing energy-efficient devices and applications, and disposing of e-waste properly. They should also demand more transparency and accountability from service providers and policymakers.



Our demonstrated the interest and engagement of the IGF community on the topic of digital sustainability. The session also showed the diversity and complexity of the issue, as well as the need for collaboration and coordination among different stakeholder groups. 

The session provided a valuable opportunity for our organization and youth to showcase its work and vision, and to connect with other actors and initiatives in the field.



The Internet is a double-edged sword that can cut emissions and shape anew modern sustainable industry, but also has a significant carbon footprint that needs to be reduced. Emerging youth initiative is committed to sensitizing and mobilizing youth on the topic of environmentalism, youth, and climate technology. Our network invites other actors and initiatives to join its efforts and collaborate on breaking the Internet's carbon curse.