Blockchain For Environmental Sustainability: Real-World Applications

As the world increasingly looks at using digital technology to accelerate action on issues such as climate change and biodiversity loss, blockchain is pushing to the forefront.

Blockchain is a digitally distributed, decentralized ledger that helps to verify and trace multistep transactions. While it might be best known as the architecture behind crypto-currencies like Bitcoin, it is finding uses in everything from tracking the sustainability of products to the real-time monitoring of pollution.

This technology is key to innovations in energy and climate, say experts, but so far, little attention has been given to how blockchain can be used in developing countries. A new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Social Alpha Foundation (SAF) is looking to change this picture and unlock new opportunities.

Blockchain for Sustainable Energy and Climate in the Global South: Use Cases and Opportunities explores how the technology can accelerate the transition to clean energy and help combat climate change in developing countries. It’s a publication that comes as global temperatures are on pace to rise by at least 2.7°C by the end of the century, a number UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called catastrophic.

“The world needs to almost halve emissions over the next eight years to stay on track for a 1.5°C world, while at the same time expanding access to energy to bring hundreds of millions of people onto the grid,” said Mark Radka, Chief of UNEP’s Energy and Climate Branch, referring to data from UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report 2021. “Blockchain technology can play a part by making possible more accurate load monitoring, generation and distribution in the grid through efficient use of data,” he added.

Driving innovation

Several businesses, such as Power Ledger, an Australian technology company, have begun to tap into the potential of blockchain. The company established a pilot project in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh that allowed homeowners with solar arrays on their rooftops to sell power to others on the grid, setting prices in real time and executing transactions over blockchain.

Systems like those can help accelerate the deployment of renewable energy in developing countries and help states move away from unsustainable electricity subsidies.

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