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Climate, Carbon Markets and Blockchain


This is a white paper published 25 April 2023 on WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM. 

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world. As stated in its mission, it, “engages business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.”

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Digital transformation across the environment and climate sector is an urgent opportunity for meaningful action. Other sectors – from retail to finance to manufacturing – have proven the efficiency and productivity benefits of connectivity, automation and data analytics, but the climate sector – where the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recently underscored the necessity of swift action – is still largely analogue and relies on limited (and outdated) data. To not fully explore and adopt available digital transformation and innovation is the decision to hinder necessary progress on climate action. Conventional methods cannot be relied on to tackle perhaps the biggest-ever threat to humanity. Global climate infrastructure, tools and coordination technologies are needed to keep pace with the changing planetary ecosystem, transcend borders and span social, economic, cultural and governmental domains. This is where blockchain can help.

Blockchain is one of several emerging technologies being explored to address urgent environmental issues such as biodiversity loss, disaster displacement and energy grid deficiencies, as well as resource allocation and coordination – all critical parts of this complex, intersectional, intergenerational and multicultural climate challenge. The defining qualities of blockchains – decentralized, open and global – make them powerful tools that can provide breadth and depth to current climate mitigation and adaptation efforts. Yet, as is the case with any technology, there must be consideration of the unintended consequences, technological maturity and implementation approaches that may impact the people, communities and natural ecosystems already facing climate inaction.

Through ethnographic research, evidence-based climate innovation case studies, and considerations including climate change’s historical, political, economic and cultural contexts, it is investigated how blockchain is incentivizing and can continue to incentivize a planet-positive economy focused on financing regeneration and climate action at scale. Blockchain can democratize ownership and reallocate resources to shift power dynamics to the people most knowledgeable of, and most vulnerable to, the effects of climate change. Blockchain could also improve the transparency and integrity of existing decarbonization mechanisms like carbon markets. When paired with digital tools for measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) – such as remote sensors, drone imagery and artificial intelligence – digital environmental assets and carbon accounting systems can provide real-time visibility into the effectiveness of emissions reduction and sequestration efforts. As such, these technologies can serve as powerful tools that help communicate and coordinate globally to distribute resources for a world that is flourishing with life. Blockchain adoption and implementation across decarbonization sectors will require thoughtful coordination, meaningful action across layers of society and industry, education and balanced regulation. Entrepreneurs and investors will be betting on this space not existing in a vacuum. It is hoped that this paper catalyses the important conversations needed to accelerate these emerging technologies to address climate change.