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June 5, 2017

World Environment Day: 3 ways blockchain can help fight climate change

By ITU News

New and innovative technologies are helping to boost the fight against climate change. And one in particular is causing a stir: blockchain.

“Environmental problems emerge because we lack trust,” says Guillaume Chapron, an ecologist at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Riddarhyttan.

Blockchain, a distributed digital ledger that records ownership through a shared registry, can help countries resolve issues of trust and accountability – and help solve climate issues, experts say.

“Blockchain could contribute to greater stakeholder involvement, transparency and engagement and help bring trust and further innovative solutions in the fight against climate change, leading to enhanced climate actions,” says Alexandre Gellert Paris, Associate Programme Officer at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Transparent and traceable, the distributed network has many opportunities for supporting climate action. Here are three:

1) Carbon emission trading

IBM and Energy Blockchain Lab are helping to build a low-carbon, environmentally-friendly future in China. Jointly, they are working on the first blockchain-based green asset management platform – a platform for trading carbon assets. Using the open source, openly governed and public blockchain ledger would guarantee transparency and ensure that carbon asset transactions are valid and settled automatically.

Blockchain could also facilitate peer-to-peer renewable energy trading. Renewable energy generated via connected personal solar panels could be bought, sold or exchanged on blockchain-enabled platforms, with tokens or tradable digital assets representing a certain quantity of energy production.

2) Supply chain management

Blockchain can boost the sustainability of industries such as forestry, energy and fisheries.

Supply chains can be securely and reliably logged through blockchain-based protocol to track resources and materials.

“Sustainability scientists and blockchain developers must meet and discuss problems and solutions.”
— Guillaume Chapron

Technology platform Provenance worked with the Indonesian fishing industry last year to trace sustainably caught fish along the supply chain. The Programme for the Endorsement of Forestry Certification (PEFC), the world’s largest forest certification system, has been investigating blockchain as an alternative solution for tracing the origin and source of wood. One day, customs officials could spot illegally traded animals or plants by using portable DNA barcode scanners.

“Since blockchain records transactions openly and permanently to its ledger, and this dynamic ledger is generally available to anyone who wants a copy, it opens up the whole tracking process to scrutiny while at the same time preventing any monopolistic third party from controlling the system,” Alistair Dabbs writes.

3) Land titling

Last year, the Republic of Georgia launched property rights registration project which allows people to register land ownership by blockchain to increase transparency, efficiency and security of land titling. Similar projects are also running in Ghana and Honduras.

Sounds great! How do we start?

Cross-sectoral collaboration is pivotal to achieving this blockchain-enabled future for sustainable development.

“Blockchain technology is already entering segments of the economy. Sustainability should become one of them. Sustainability scientists and blockchain developers must meet and discuss problems and solutions,” Guillaume Chapron writes.

As an open, traceable and trusted database, blockchain technology could be a game-changer for sustainability.

By Lucy Spencer (@inquisitivelucy), ITU News

Photo: © UNEP/Shawn Heinrichs

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