IGF 2023 Main Session on Sustainability & Environment

Wednesday, 11th October, 2023 (01:15 UTC) - Wednesday, 11th October, 2023 (02:45 UTC)
Plenary Room


An Untapped Resource: How Can Digital Cooperation Contribute to the Battle for Our Environment?

It is well understood that development, spread, and use of the Internet and ICTs have significant impacts on the environment. At the same time, these technologies have the potential to significantly help in addressing environmental impact, whether by facilitating new approaches and efficiencies or in allowing us to measure and analyse the impact our actions have on the environment. The key to both mitigating the damage and unlocking the potential lies in better understanding the complex (sometimes counter-intuitive) relationships between the use of these technologies and their impact on the environment. 

The IGF community has already established the link between Internet governance and environmental sustainability via the work of the Policy Network on Environment and Digitalisation (and its 2022 report), and the subsequent work of the Dynamic Coalition on Environment (DCE). This session will build on those outputs, while seeking to strengthen links with the UN’s ongoing work in relation to HABITAT, Biodiversity, Ocean, climate change,  sustainability, the environment, Disaster Risk Reduction etc., and the connections to NGOs, research, initiatives in the private sector and academia that will be crucial to effectively addressing these challenges. 

Digital technologies are evolving as quickly as our understanding of the planet’s environmental systems and humanity’s impact on them. We are only beginning to understand the impact of emerging technologies like AI, but even our understanding of how more established technologies affect the planet is incomplete, while the need for effective policies and best practices has never been more urgent. This session will aim to progress our common understanding and coordination on matters of digital cooperation in ways that will practically contribute to the all-important goal of protecting our natural environment. 

Policy Questions: 

  • Is "the Internet we want" compatible with a global response to the climate crisis?
  • How can digital cooperation and Internet governance discussions contribute to the goals of environmental protection, sustainability, and climate change mitigation?
  • What are UN environment and sustainability actors looking for from the IGF and digital policy discussions? 
  • Are digital policies currently being developed with an adequate understanding of the relationships between ICT use and environmental impact? 
  • Do we have the appropriate structures and processes to foster a common and comprehensive understanding of the impact that evolving digital technologies have on the environment?
  • How can the IGF better facilitate digital policy discussions within the UN environment and with sustainability actors?


  • Edmon Chung (moderator) 
  • David Souter, APC
  • Maike Luiken, IEEE and Chair of the Planet Positive 2030 Initiative
  • Dulcé Soares, Similie
  • Kemly Camacho, Cooperative Sulá Batsú
  • Mactar Seck, UNECA
  • Axel Klahake, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
Sustainability & Environment
Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)
- The expanding use of the Internet and the energy use associated with digital activities have proven to be unsustainable from an environmental standpoint, often with spillover effects on territories and communities that are more exposed to the effects of climate change. It is clear that digital policies that are not environmentally sustainable won’t be sustainable in any other sense.
- Discussions about digital transformation and climate change are still held in silos, and there can be misunderstanding of the links between digital technology and the environment.
Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)
- There should not be a one-size-fits-all answer; we need to adopt a granular approach to solutions to tackle not only conflicting interests but also to avoid stifling the digital transformation of the least developed countries.
- We should integrate environmental policy perspectives and expertise into digital forums to pave the way to the digital transformation that is sustainable in the long term, as well as technical standards that are more environment-informed. NRIs can play an important part, connecting to local communities, engaging more effectively with governments, and developing platforms for information sharing.