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Data and digital technology can be transformative in the fight against climate change. If we responsibly harness their power.

As one of the greatest threats of our time, climate change will significantly alter life for people across the world. For many, this has already become a reality, as they face the detrimental effects of rising sea levels, severe weather events, and worsening natural disasters.

And, while climate change is a global concern, it is particularly pressing for those living in middle- and low- income countries. People in these regions often face the highest risk of climate displacement, despite being least responsible for carbon emissions. As temperatures continue to rise, portions of the Global South could become unlivable due to extreme heat – accounting for up to 19% of the world by 2070.

With stakes this high, digital technology can – and should – contribute to positive climate action.

Digital technology plays a critical role in our everyday lives, and it has the potential to have a similarly massive impact on the environment. This is particularly true when it comes to digital public infrastructure. DPI, as it’s commonly called, is the foundational digital layer – often composed of IDs, payment systems, and data exchange – that helps fuel a well-functioning digital society. At the Digital Impact Alliance, we are optimistic about the ways that good DPI, and data in particular, can support decision makers to fight climate change, and adapt to it.

Tuvalu (Funafuti) aerial shot of one of the thinest part of the island where the ocean and lagoon can be seen together .

For example, in the Philippines, city planners are using satellite data to monitor driving patterns, allowing them to maximize traffic flow and reduce carbon emissions. Across the Pacific Islands, geospatial data is helping to monitor coastline change, weather patterns, and land cover in the region’s changing ecosystem. And in Mozambique, DPI is being used to trigger early warnings for communities at risk of being affected by cyclones and other natural disasters. As we witness just how impactful unlocking data is to the fight against climate change, we must continue to build out these capabilities.

When it comes to the future of our planet, we sit at a critical crossroads.

Digital technology can play a crucial role in mitigating – and potentially even reversing – climate change, but we must take steps to make this a reality. Realizing these benefits will require trusted and inclusive DPI that allows for data to flow across countries, institutions, and sectors. When these systems are sustainable and interoperable (i.e., they can readily and easily exchange information with one another), the results can be transformative.

In our current digital ecosystem, much of the data needed to advance important climate measures already exists – yet is locked away in proprietary, governmental, or other restricted silos – unable to be accessed or utilized. This need not be the case. When DPI components are designed, implemented, and governed with people’s interests at the center, they allow new data to be generated, and existing data to be accessed – responsibly – for the public benefit.

We’ve already witnessed the ways in which good DPI can tackle a number of societal issues and improve quality of life for people around the world. If we center climate action within this framework, we can use the same infrastructure to unlock data that advances aggressive solutions and prevents irreversible damage to our world. At the same time, it is critical that we ensure these well-intentioned digital solutions are not adding fuel to the fire. As new developments in DPI push forward, we must address the environmental footprint of digital – from energy consumption to the natural resources required to build hardware. By doing so, we can ensure digital transformation is in service to the wellbeing of people and the planet.

We encourage everyone – especially those in power – to prioritize unlocking data for climate response.

At the Digital Impact Alliance, we envision a sustainable, environmentally friendly society, where data and digital technology are harnessed for the good of people, communities, and the planet. To make this vision a reality, we must prioritize inclusive, trusted digital public infrastructure to unlock the data needed for effective climate protection, mitigation, and response. Such a future will require cross-border collaboration and knowledge-sharing, combined with effective technology architecture and data exchange.

When DPI is sustainable across time and adaptable to changing needs, it can have enormous benefits for the planet and those who call it home. We encourage government leaders to invest in good DPI – and the data it generates – to advance innovative climate solutions for people and communities globally. Through these measures, we can foster a world where data and technology support and strengthen vital climate initiatives.