Digitalisation crucial to developmental sustainability

A UN-backed coalition of 1,000 stakeholders from over 100 countries today launched an Action Plan to better utilise digitalisation to drive and socially sustainable development.

The Coalition for Digital Environmental Sustainability (CODES) aims to help reorient and prioritise the application of digital technologies to meet the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and address the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution and waste.

The flagship CODES Action Plan, launched during the Stockholm+50 international environmental meeting, proposes a comprehensive and strategic approach to “embed sustainability in all aspects of digitalisation”.

“Digitalisation 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. UNEP is committed to supporting CODES and digital sustainability as a core part of our new Digital Transformation programme” said Inger Andersen, executive director, United Nations Environment Programme and CODES co-champion.

The scheme plans to build a “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 digitalisation”.

Achim Steiner, administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and CODES co-champion added: “Digitalisation – the use and adoption of digital technologies – is driving massive economic, social and environmental change that can either deepen or close inequalities. The future of humanity and the health of planet Earth will be significantly shaped by this transformation. UNDP is committed to support a transformation that offers a greener and more just future that leaves no one behind.”

The UN said the Action Plan and the CODES movement 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. Shaping the outcomes of the digital revolution to achieve global sustainability is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that must be realised before the window of opportunity closes. Digitalization has the potential to help transform society and business models and it is a critical tool to help build a healthier, safer, cleaner and more equitable future.

The plan proposes a set of nine measurable global Impact Initiatives to inspire and provoke collective action, to progress the three shifts. Examples of these 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. 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.

“Digital transformation must be governed as one of the key sustainability issues for the global community today. We can’t afford to fail to align the disruptive forces of digital change with our common sustainable development goals” said Dirk Messner, president of the German Environment Agency and CODES co-champion.

CODES will act as a “docking station” for the nine Impact Initiatives, offering coordination, sharing of expertise and mobilizing resources. 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 coming Summit of the Future and the Global Digital Compact in 2023.

“The CODES Action Plan for a Sustainable Planet in the Digital Age is a critical part of implementing the Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation. In addition, it provides much valued inputs to be considered for the Global Digital Compact that the United Nations is working on now, as part of the Summit of the Future next September; as well as the way forward on these issues. This is a long-term collective effort and we are proud to be part of this global movement” said Maria Francesca-Spatolisano, acting secretary-general’s envoy on technology.

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