Digital Sustainability Experts Warn of a Lack of Action at COP28 to Reduce Skyrocketing Tech Emissions

Tech Emissions

London, 14th December – Digital sustainability experts have warned of a lack of action around technology emissions at COP28, as CO2 emissions from data centres, continue to rise exponentially due to rapid data growth from AI and video. 

COP28 saw urgent calls to action, orders to chase ambitious climate goals, and a major debate on fossil fuels. However, tech and digital sustainability specialists were left shocked at the omission of technology emissions on the agenda over the last 2 weeks in Dubai.

Technology emissions from data centres alone are on track to generate 14 per cent of global CO2 emissions by 2040, up from 3.7 per cent currently. To put this into perspective, the aviation industry, a sector under intense scrutiny, accounted for only 2 per cent of emissions in 2022.

The failure to engage in a comprehensive discussion on sustainable tech solutions at COP28 highlights the pressing need for immediate attention to mitigate the worsening impact of technology emissions on the planet, according to experts.

Tom Dunning, CEO of Ad Signal and Co-Founder of the Digital Sustainability Alliance, commented: “The lack of progress around digital sustainability at COP is a huge concern as we are sleepwalking towards environmental damage that will take hundreds of years to counterbalance. Content growth and the increase of data, fuelled by AI, means that the technology is on a worrying trajectory to cause significant environmental harm, and this urgently needs to be addressed.”

“As we look to future climate discussions, it is essential to broaden the scope and ensure that technology’s carbon footprint is a priority, especially given solutions to reduce carbon emissions are already in the marketplace. Video, for example, is the densest format out there and technology such as Ad Signals can greatly reduce network traffic and storage by de-duplicating versions.”

Ben Golub, CEO of Storj and Co-Founder of the Digital Sustainability Alliance, commented: “Digital sustainability is the biggest untold story out there. Politicians and environmental activists often warn of the existential threat of global warming, but few know about and truly understand the extent of the issue that digital sustainability presents.”

“The Digital Sustainability Alliance was formed to open the eyes of policymakers, big tech companies and industry to the stark reality of the carbon impacts of data consumption and the urgent need for digital sustainability. It is worrying to see the lack of action and awareness given to technology emissions at COP, especially given the need for environmental stewardship in the digital age. Storj is committed to innovation fused with environmental stewardship. This has driven the development of our global, distributed approach to cloud object storage, utilising existing unused capacity from tens of thousands of nodes worldwide. So, instead of data storage becoming responsible for 14 per cent of global CO2 emissions by 2040, this can be reduced to 2 per cent due to use of existing resources which eliminate the need to build and maintain new data centres in order to meet rising demand.”

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.