EU Green Deal: AI and digitalisation can help deliver on climate, sustainability goals 

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The impact AI can have on decarbonisation and better use of resources was discussed in the special committee on Artificial Intelligence in a Digital Age (AIDA) on Wednesday.

The recording of the debate is available from this link.

“The duty we, politicians, have is to secure the future of our citizens, both present and future. And nowhere does this responsibility carry more weight and has more far-reaching consequences than in ensuring the twin digital and green transitions are successful,” said AIDA committee Chair Dragoș Tudorache (Renew Europe, RO).

“Global warming is an existential threat to humankind that needs to be countered by coordinated action at the global level. Nothing short of a global response will suffice,” he said.

“AI can help us build better cities that are more efficient and provide higher living standards, increase agriculture efficiency, increase energy efficiency for virtually everything connected to electrical power, monitor the environment and make climate predictions, model complex ecological systems or even the Earth, and carbon-optimise most areas of human activity that contribute to global warming. With the right safeguards in place, AI can be a global solution to global problems. We need to deploy it to help us solve the climate crisis,” he added.

“Digitalisation and AI can bring solutions, but will also inevitably bring challenges,” said Environment, Public health and Food safety committee Chair Pascal Canfin (Renew Europe, FR).

“The big question here is how AI and digitalisation can make Europe more sustainable and help us achieve our climate targets. This discussion has shown the potential of AI in this regard, in terms of energy savings, agricultural planning, waste reduction, or understanding better the dynamics of our oceans and climate. But it also shows the challenge AI poses in terms of governance. Here, I believe that while the EU should affirm its values and build its own industrial sovereignty, we will also have to be extremely proactive on the global stage to make sure that the right, ethical AI solutions can be deployed globally, because we will not solve the climate crisis alone,” he said.

The first panel of the event focused on AI governance and the EU Green Deal, with the participation of European Commission’s DG CLIMA Deputy Director-General Clara de la Torre, Shereen Zorba, who is both Head of secretariat at UN Science-Policy-Business Forum and Chief of Science-Policy-Business Interface at the UN Environment Programme , European Space Agency Director of Earth Observation Programmes Josef Aschbacher and Guillaume Pitron, Journalist and Author of “The Rare Metals War: the dark side of clean energy and digital technologies”.

The second panel featured the participation of representatives of academia and industry: Lynn H. Kaack, Postdoctoral researcher of ETH Zürich and the Chair of Climate Change AI, Mozilla’s Sustainability Steward Cathleen Berger and Victor Galaz, who is both Deputy director and Associate Professor of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and Program Director of the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economies.

Panellists looked at AI and Green Deal from several different angles and highlighted, for example, how AI can enable the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions, how Earth observation data together with AI can help in taking the pulse of the planet, the importance of an enlightened, multilateral governance, and the issue of the digital sector’s environmental footprint. They also pointed out the need to invest in the sector’s diversity and people, as well as in a smart and powerful digital infrastructure.