Thought Leadership

Climate Activists Turned Up the Heat on World Leaders with Blockchain at Davos

Written by Contributing Writer, Lawrence Wintermeyer, Co-Founder & Principal, Elipses

The 50th World Economic Forum (WEF) was held at Davos in January against a backdrop of grim economic news. Many world leaders were notably absent, and the voice of the WEF congress center was muted compared to years past when leaders used the forum as a world stage for grand announcements.

WEF’s Global Risks Report 2023 makes for grim reading warning of a balance of “old risks” like inflation, cost-of-living crisis, and trade wars, along with “new risks” from climate change and technology exacerbating inequalities all dominating a polycrises landscape for the next decade.

Against this somber backdrop, two very vocal and engaging themes stood out at Davos this year, the climate crisis and innovative blockchain solutions, two increasingly sympatico bedfellows.

On The Climate Crisis

Al Gore, former U.S. vice president and climate activist, spoke emotively on the WEF congress stage of the oil and gas industry using their extraordinary wealth and political connections to stifle productive legislation and progress on the reduction of carbon emissions. For those long in the tooth, this looks like a playbook used by the tobacco lobby.

In a year of high energy costs for many citizens around the world, the oil companies are posting record profits, and this is likely to garner the sector even more unpopular attention on many fronts. Gore likened the impact of the trapped heat created through carbon emissions as being the equivalent of the heat release from 600,000 Hiroshima atom bombs going off daily. 

Regardless of your views on climate science data, or who or what is responsible for the undeniable rise of temperature on the planet, there is no excuse for dumping 162 million tons of carbon into our atmosphere every day. Surely, we can do better than this.

“Keep it in the ground,” was Grete Thunberg’s big message at Davos. The 20-year-old climate activist is a real global leader of children of all ages for her authentic stance on climate, backed up by her actions. Thunberg brings a fresh and youthful perspective on the climate crisis and is leading the next generation of global leaders that have little trust in today’s leaders to solve the climate crisis.

Statista estimates the current $46 billion green economy to grow to $417 billion by 2030, an annual growth rate of 21.6 percent. It is the financial incentives presented by going green, along with blockchain technology’s pervasiveness and ease of use in the hands of the people, often rather than big business, that will drive the next era of sustainable strategies.

Blockchain technology is helping turn “surveillance capital”, the widespread collection and commodification of (digital) personal data by corporations, on its head to “climate surveillance”, the widespread collection of data from sensors, cameras, satellites, and supply chains to monitor and report on companies performance on carbon emissions and environmental impact. This is beginning to influence big investors.

This era of “data enrichment” is enabled by the tens of billions of devices on the Internet of Things (IoT), tracking and feeding data to blockchain solutions to reliably report on the provenance of the extant data, known as “externalities”, from everything like carbon emissions, to the quality of the labor and materials used in the production of food, clothing, and manufactured products. 

An increasing requirement for legally auditable climate company accounts signed off by company executives and boards is accelerating the adoption of blockchain technologies for tracking and reporting on both statutory and voluntary environmental measures. Moving away from Wall Street to Main Street, the incentives being deployed in the engine room of the economy for farmers, small and medium sized business, and budding entrepreneurs are increasingly “sticky” and lucrative.

On Innovate Blockchain Solutions

This year’s Davos Promenade was dominated by the global blockchain and digital assets industry, with a noticeable presence of industry leaders hosting comprehensive policy and education panel discussions. A key trend emerging this year is the “tokenization of the real economy” with use cases on the tokenization of private market securities, government debt, property, and carbon markets.

Industry leaders are using blockchain technology to tokenize green bonds, which will support countries in wiping out existing debt loads by offering issuances that pay to keep biodiversity, forest preservation, etc. within sovereign borders. 

Sandra Ro, chief executive officer of the Global Blockchain Business Council, which runs a regulator annual fixture at the Hotel Europe in Davos, cites, “One recent example is the Hong Kong government’s plan to launch green bonds for institutional investors before the end of the year, becoming the first government green bonds in the world.

“Another in India is the government of Uttar Pradesh which has amended its regulatory framework to facilitate controlled peer-to-peer energy trading, acting as a market-based incentive for the accelerated deployment of rooftop solar photovoltaics.” 

Ro also cites that the governments of Canada and Chile, in collaboration with private organizations, have developed a program for commissioning a modern landfill gas capture and destruction system, while developing standardized measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) methods to quantify the emission reductions achieved.

A great example of how the blockchain community is coming together on climate standards is the launch of the Blockchain x Climate Leadership Network (BxC) at Davos. BxC will focus on carbon markets registries, standards and auditability, and policy development to drive interoperable Layer 1 blockchain solutions to bridge Web2 and Web3. The BxC network is founded by the Solana Foundation, Ripple, the Climate Collective, and Eqo Networks, and has the goal of connecting the many disparate projects working on blockchain climate solutions.

Amira Valliani, Policy Lead at the Solana Foundation, said: “We need all the tools we can bring to bear in the climate crisis, and everyone has a role to play. BxC is a rare space for activists and organizations to come together, roll up our sleeves, and collaborate on unexpected opportunities to make a difference. We’re thrilled to be founding members of this one-of-a-kind coalition.”

Global leaders are on notice – the use of blockchain technology to tackle the climate crisis is one the best tools we have in humanity’s sparse looking climate toolbox. 

We are entering a new era of transformative technological innovation with blockchain solutions that are being implemented to deliver results, now. It’s not all doom and gloom, the green shoots are visible, but we must remain vigilant. We look forward to seeing evidence of the progress of blockchain’s positive impact on carbon reduction and critical sustainability targets in future WEF Global Risk Reports.


About the Author:

Lawrence is a globally recognised digital finance advocate with a track record as an advisor, executive, and board member, working with startups to institutions. He is the Chair of GBBC Digital Finance (GDF), a not for-profit promoting fair and transparent markets for crypto and digital assets, and is the former CEO of Innovate Finance, the UK fintech members association. He is the Principal of Elipses, a digital investment management firm focused on sustainable investments, systematic investment management strategies, big data analytics, machine learning, and DLT technologies. Lawrence has an MBA, is a regular Forbes and Fintech.TV contributor, and promotes ethical and sustainable finance policies for a transparent, secure, and quality digital future for everyone.