IGF 2021 WS #50 Critical Times: Impact of Digitalization on Climate Change

Friday, 10th December, 2021 (08:30 UTC) - Friday, 10th December, 2021 (10:00 UTC)
Conference Room 3

Organizer 1: Edmon Chung, DotAsia Organisation
Organizer 2: Jennifer Chung,
Organizer 3: Christine Or, DotAsia Organisation

Speaker 1: Daphne Mah, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 2: Teddy Woodhouse, Civil Society, European Group
Speaker 3: Edmon Chung, Technical Community, Asia-Pacific Group

Online Moderator

Edmon Chung, Technical Community, Asia-Pacific Group


Christine Or, Technical Community, Asia-Pacific Group


Round Table - U-shape - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

Increasing awareness and proactiveness among policymakers and developers: How do we ensure that technology developers, digital corporations, policy makers and policy processes consistently consider the impact of the Internet and digitalisation on sustainability and climate change?
Measuring impact: How can we improve the assessment, measurement and monitoring of the environmental impact of digitalisation and the Internet?

Additional Policy Questions Information: 1. Measuring impact - How can we collect data from Internet exchanges, measure and calculate the carbon footprint, which contributes to global warming and climate change? How do we make this a long-term measurement and study, in order to monitor the impact of growing digitalization? 2. Increasing awareness and proactiveness among policymakers and developers - How do we urge policymakers, technology developers and technology companies to prioritize climate change, and to set goals to achieve sustainability?

1. Measuring impact - Global emissions of carbon dioxide have been rising steadily by about 1% per year for decades. In 2020, in association to population confinement and economic activity slowdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the world has seen a significant 7% drop in carbon emissions, which is the largest annual decline on record; daily global CO2 emissions have decreased by 17% by early April 2020 compared with the figures of 2019. However, emissions are expected to rebound in 2021 due to increased digital activity. In our research, we will collect and analyze the data from Internet exchanges and relate it to carbon emissions, to investigate the relationship between them and to identify the problem. 2. Increasing awareness and proactiveness among policymakers and developers - We are at a critical time for digital communities to reflect on and monitor the expansion of the Internet, connecting with carbon footprint initiatives to develop concepts, tools and Internet governance policies, in order to tackle climate change and recovery plans. It is crucial to urge governments and the industry to prioritize the imperatives of climate change and environmental sustainability in future planning. Effective measures by multiple sectors on curbing digital carbon footprint are necessary to make a difference in global scale.



Targets: There is direct connection between the selected SDG targets and this proposal because it is the ultimate goal of our research and study to develop a narrative to advocate governments and the industry to integrate strong climate actions into future economic strategies for higher potential rewards, and thus to educate the public about the climate challenges we are facing and encourage the public to make fundamental changes to reduce carbon footprint in daily life.


Although there was a significant decline in carbon emissions in 2020, it was obviously a result from population confinement and economy slowdown. Experts forecast that carbon emissions will rapidly bounce back to its original level, because digital activity has been accelerated by the pandemic, for example through online learning, home office, online shopping, etc. Our researcher will present the data analysis on Internet exchanges as evidence to indicate the impact of digital activities on carbon emissions, leading to the discussion on how digitalisation has contributed to global warming. The speaker from environmental studies will specify how energy consumption in data centres and Internet infrastructures is escalated by the explosion of digital technology. On the other hand, our Internet governance experts will also highlight the potentials of the Internet and ICT to monitor climate change and reduce carbon footprint, making the target of net-zero emissions achievable. The speaker from the government sector will present possible implementations through policy and regulations to ensure green economy.

Expected Outcomes

Recommendations of policy framework which sets out procedures or milestones, targeting at reducing carbon footprint by digital impacts, to urge governments and the industry to take immediate actions to tackle climate change. Agenda-setting to raise public awareness to address climate crises properly and review our habits in using digital technology. We hope the research analysis and policy recommendations will contribute to the work of IGF Policy Network on Environment (PNE).

Design of the session / Agenda: 10 min – Introduction and data presentation by researcher / Internet exchange specialist 40-45 min – Discussion by panelists 13-15 min - Environmental activist on the damage of environment by digitalisation and the urgency to reduce carbon footprint 13-15 min - Internet governance experts to elaborate on the connection between digitalization and the environment, and how we can make good use of digital tools to study and reduce impacts. 13-15 min - Government officials from countries who are more aggressive in monitoring or even reducing digital impacts on environment 35-40 min – Q&A (20 min for on-site participants, 20 min for online participants) We would like to have an on-site moderator to facilitate any interaction with the physical audience if travelling is possible. Otherwise, we hope to find a local volunteer to assist. We would also have an online moderator to focus on the discussion on the Zoom platform.

Online Participation

Usage of IGF Official Tool.

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

- Shareable resources are the key to an Eco Internet, for instance, shared Internet infrastructure and open data, as well as the use of renewable energy. It relies on the close cooperation between different stakeholders to achieve an efficient yet environmental friendly Internet.

- Both the carbon footprint and benefits of digital technologies need to be considered. Extensive use of the Internet generates increasing carbon footprint but it also replaces many activities which create much greater climate impact.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

- To urge the collaboration of multi stakeholders especially government and private sectors to prioritise the environmental issue with accelerating digitalisation and implement effective policies.

- To develop standardised measurements and data transparency which can be used universally including developing countries.