A. AREA FOR INPUT
We chose “other areas” and specified the area as “Sustainability / Sustainable Development”. This reflects our process-related criticism as CODES that sustainability is not yet an overarching purpose or not even a specific action area in the roadmap format.
- PROCESS OF PREPARATION
The Coalition for Digital Environmental Sustainability (CODES) is a global alliance advancing the movement for sustainability-centered digital transformation. CODES was mandated by the UN Technology Envoy to address the nexus between digital transformation and environmental sustainability as part of the follow-up process to the UN Secretary General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation. CODES serves as a global agenda-setter as well as a coordination and collaboration framework for collective action on digital sustainability. CODES organizes side events at high-level meetings (such as UN Environmental Assembly, Stockholm+50 or IGF) and orchestrates a community with over 1.200 SparkBlue members (representing over 450 organizations incl. 140+ private, 120+ non-profit,100+ academia, 40+ public, 35+ UN entities).
This submission for the GDC is based on content derived from the CODES Action Plan for a Sustainable Planet in the Digital Age; co-developed by 200+ contributors in consultation with a global community of over 1000 multi-sectoral actors from 100 countries. A series of online and open stakeholder roundtables took place between 31 March 2021 and 20 May 2022 to collect insights and consolidate the Action Plan. The Action Plan was formally launched at the international meeting “Stockholm+50: a healthy planet for the prosperity of all – our responsibility, our opportunity” in June 2022. The CODES Action Plan with its call for three systemic shifts and nine impact initiatives has become an important reference in the community and inspired influential organizations to align their work to the three shifts and to co-lead CODES impact initiatives.
- CORE PRINCIPLES
This is an urgent call for action: The digital transformation needs to be systemically aligned with the sustainability transformation to ensure first, that the digital infrastructure is itself comprehensively sustainable and second, that we develop and use digital innovations as an accelerating force for advancing our sustainable development agenda.
This translates into the advancement of three core principles:
- THE “ENABLE ALIGNMENT TO SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT” PRINCIPLE - Reorient the purpose of digitalization to develop common visions, values and renewed objectives for sustainable development in the Digital Age. The global community needs to proactively shape and govern digital change as a fundamental sustainability issue of the 21st Century. This includes updating our individual and institutional capacities and competencies, our norms, standards and governance frameworks, our abilities to safeguard people's dignity, and promote global prosperity, to be fit for purpose in the digital age.
- THE “MITIGATE HARM WITH SUSTAINABLE DIGITALIZATION” PRINCIPLE - Ensure that the negative environmental and social impacts of the Digital Age are mitigated. Negative digital impacts often act as powerful accelerants of unsustainable trends and must be mitigated. The global community needs to make digital infrastructures, products and services more sustainable, inclusive and equitable within a whole-of-society approach. This includes the reduction of emissions and resource use, consumption patterns and misinformation as well as digital divides and rights violations.
- THE “INNOVATE WITH PURPOSE” PRINCIPLE - Ensure that all stakeholders channel large investments, capacity development and collective efforts in digital/socio-technical innovations towards achieving our sustainable development goals. The global community needs to incentivise and steer these actions and investments across all policy levels and sustainability needs. This includes innovations for global climate and biodiversity protection, circular economy and sustainable consumption, as well as for new knowledge commons, governance breakthroughs and a green just transition.
- KEY COMMITMENTS, PLEDGES, ACTIONS
Action for Alignment (ad 1)
- Create a World Commission on Sustainability in the Digital Age (“Brundtland 2.0”): Specify guidelines and actions needed for sustainable development in the Digital Age and inform institutional updates within the UN, (inter)national policies, research agendas, and legislative frameworks at local, national and global levels.
- Create a Clearing House for Digital Sustainability Standards: Facilitate the dialogue and governance on norms, standard-setting and legal frameworks for co-defining key standards for digital sustainability in concert with standard setting entities, member states and private actors.
- Build Literacy for Sustainable Development in the Digital Age: Create education programmes to strengthen capacity, skills and reflexivity needed to advance digital sustainability across all key actors.
Action for Sustainable Digitalization (ad 2)
- Harmonize Emissions Reporting of Digital Companies, Products and Services: Monitor, compare and reduce the emission impact of digitalisation globally, through a new international platform to facilitate harmonization and adoption of GHG reporting standards.
- Adopt Sustainable Procurement and Green Digital Infrastructure Pledges: Garner strong commitment across state and non-state actors to build green digital infrastructures, products and services; form a strong alliance to stimulate demand, standard setting and responsible investments.
- Promote Sustainable Digital Product Passports: Facilitate global dialogues on sustainability opportunities and challenges of a digital circular economy. A globally inclusive DPP pilot testing assesses conditions to track and safeguard climate, environmental and social impacts along global value chains.
Action for Digital Sustainability (ad 3)
- Develop Sustainability-centered Innovation Hubs: Reorient resources towards applied digital innovations for sustainable development. A global network of collaborative innovation hubs should co-create scalable socio-technical solutions.
- Position Environmental and Climate Data as Digital Public Good: Utilize data for advancing the common good, globally. A public good framework for environmental and climate data should leverage sustainability assessments and global stock-taking.
- Develop Financing Mechanisms to Advance Sustainability Solutions: A digital matchmaker should enable decentralized, innovative financing mechanisms like crowdfunding, micropayments or payments for ecosystem services.
- COMMENTS ON GDC
At the current point in time the Coalition for Digital Environmental Sustainability (CODES) wants to highlight three comments on the Global Digital Compact process:
- The overall purpose of the GDC should be clearly framed as a means to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs. Digital Change and the sustainability transformation are both the two fundamental transformative dynamics in this 21st Century and we need to actively govern both of them. The GDC as such should be conceptualized and communicated as an important lever for the 2030 Agenda.
- Overcome strict path dependency of the “Our Common Agenda” structure and address specific sustainability levers at the top level in the Global Digital Compact: Sustainability but especially environmental sustainability concerns are not yet represented in the thematic areas of the consultations. This is a path dependency that should be corrected. We welcome the thematic session on the SDGs in June 2023, but stress our call for including concrete action items in the GDC that 1. help mitigate negative disruptions that accelerate unsustainable trends and 2. that foster useful socio-technical innovations. We need to specify and translate an overarching reference to the 2030 Agenda into specific action in the GDC.
- Keep stakeholders involved in the process after September 2023 to September 2024: while we see the need for intergovernmental negotiations we call for transparency and inclusion during the process wherever possible.