IGF 2023 WS #21 Internet's Environmental Footprint: towards sustainability

Tuesday, 10th October, 2023 (08:45 UTC) - Tuesday, 10th October, 2023 (09:45 UTC)
WS 3 – Annex Hall 2

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

Organizer 1: Monojit Das, Ongea na Demokrasia
Organizer 2: Gabriel Karsan, 🔒Ongea Na Demokrasia
Organizer 3: Annett Onchana, N/A

Speaker 1: Yawri Carr, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 2: Lily Edinam Botsyoe, Technical Community, African Group
Speaker 3: Innocent Adriko, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 4: Ihita Gangavarapu, Technical Community, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 5: Monojit Das, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 6: Gabriel Karsan, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 7: Annett Onchana, Civil Society, African Group


Monojit Das, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Online Moderator

Monojit Das, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group


Annett Onchana, Civil Society, African Group


Birds of a Feather - 60 Min

Policy Question(s)

A. What are the implications of the growing energy consumption of the internet for greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, and global energy demand, and what steps can be taken to mitigate these impacts? B. What are the potential long-term ecological and social consequences of the environmental impacts associated with the internet, and how can governments, industry, and civil society collaborate to address these issues and promote sustainable development? C. How can the environmental impact of submarine cable installation and internet satellite deployment be minimized, and what are the current best practices in place for these activities?

What will participants gain from attending this session? The workshop aims to enhance participants' knowledge of the environmental impact of the internet and related digital technologies and educate them about strategies that can be implemented both at individual and societal levels to mitigate this impact, including the notion of "internet pollution," the environmental effects of emerging technologies such as 5G and 6G. The workshop will explore techniques for making the internet more sustainable, including the adoption of renewable energy sources and energy-efficient technology. Furthermore, attendees will discover ways to reduce their carbon footprint and promote clean energy and climate action via their internet use. Lastly, it will emphasize on importance of ensuring equitable access to the benefits of the internet, especially with regards to environmental sustainability and addressing climate change. Ultimately, the workshop will provide a holistic comprehension of the intricate relationship between the internet and the environment and how to make it more equitable and sustainable.


The internet has become an essential tool for communication, education, employment, and leisure activities. However, its widespread use has resulted in significant environmental costs, as devices, servers, and networks consume large amounts of energy and resources while emitting greenhouse gases. The internet's carbon footprint accounts for around 3.7% of global emissions, comparable to the airline industry. This figure is expected to rise exponentially with the rapid deployment of 5G networks, which will require more infrastructure, energy, and resources, leading to greater extraction of rare earths and minerals, with the potential for geopolitical consequences and unequal distribution of wealth and costs. As the world faces a climate emergency and exceeds planetary limits, there is a critical need to reconsider the idea of unlimited data for user consumption. Not only do the main mediums for data transfer (submarine cables and low earth orbit satellites) bring environmental damage, but the massive data centers hosting our data also make significant environmental impacts due to their high energy consumption. Technical stakeholders are working to introduce effective sleep modes that reduce energy usage to a minimum during periods of inactivity and provide quick wake-up times when needed. However, civil society must also raise awareness that an unlimited data pack does not mean it should be turned on all the time, even when not in use. The internet's transformation into an influential tool has brought about significant environmental costs and with the world facing a climate emergency, it is essential to find ways to reduce the internet's carbon footprint while still providing access to its benefits. This requires collaboration between all stakeholders particularly with technical stakeholders and civil society to develop solutions that balance the benefits of the internet with the need for sustainable environmental practices.

Expected Outcomes

The participants would be educated on the carbon footprint of the internet, which includes emissions from data centers, servers and end-user devices. Secondly, such a workshop should enhance participants' understanding of the challenges and opportunities for reducing the environmental impact of the internet which could help in identifying opportunities for innovation and collaboration towards developing environmentally sustainable practices. The workshop could further facilitate the identification of best practices and recommendations for improving the sustainability of the internet. Thirdly, the workshop could also help to establish a network of experts and stakeholders interested in advancing a green internet agenda providing a platform for ongoing collaboration and knowledge sharing towards promoting environmental sustainability in the tech industry. Finally, the workshop could contribute to the Global Digital Compact envisioned by the UN Secretary-General, which aims to promote a sustainable digital economy by creating awareness for participants to identify areas of focus and action.

Hybrid Format: To ensure a successful session, it's crucial to communicate the agenda and format to all attendees in advance. This helps attendees understand how they can participate and what's expected of them. Additionally, appointing a facilitator who can manage the session and ensure everyone has an opportunity to participate is essential. The facilitator should also monitor the chat and Q&A and relay any questions or comments to the onsite speakers. To create equal opportunities for both onsite and online attendees to interact with each other, potential breakout sessions where attendees can discuss specific topics in small groups should be organized. Provisions will also be made for online polls or surveys to gather feedback from attendees, for live polling and Q&A, online tools like Mentimeter or Slido can be used whereas virtual whiteboards such as Mural or Google Jamboard can also be utilized to facilitate brainstorming sessions.