APC submission on environmental democracy and digital technologies


APC welcomes the opportunity to present this submission in response to the call for inputs issued by the Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment on Promoting Environmental Democracy: Procedural elements of the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

This submission is made to raise alarms about the impacts of digital technologies for access to information, public participation and access to justice with effective remedies in the deployment of infrastructures and the global production chain that make digitalisation possible.

Digital technologies are increasingly present in our lives, while their impacts often remain hidden. This submission aims to bring attention to specific cases and trends in digitalisation, and their impacts for the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

In its 2022 report on mitigation, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) asserts that there is limited understanding of the direct and indirect impacts of digitalisation. It is critical to examine the impacts of rapidly evolving systems, including the use of water and energy to power data centres for large language models (LLMs). Moreover, better integration of mitigation models and consequential life cycle analysis is needed to assess how digitalisation, the sharing economy and the circular economy impact the supply and demand of materials and energy. 

Due to the very nature of the digital market, there is a particular concentration and dominance of a handful of companies as providers of cutting-edge digital technologies and the infrastructure that makes them possible, such as artificial intelligence, big data, blockchain, the internet of things, 5G, etc. This gives them a relevant position in the world, especially in the global south, where the inequality of power is enormous between these companies and governments and between these companies and the communities affected by the socio-environmental impacts of their deployment. However, it should be added that governments' digital deployments themselves may be public, public-private, or through tenders to private parties, which means that as owners of these initiatives, they must also be responsible for these socio-environmental impacts.

This submission focuses on providing input to questions 1, 3 and 5 in the questionnaire provided, focusing on major barriers to the full enjoyment of the rights to access information, public participation and access to justice on environmental matters impacted by digital technologies.

The full submission can be downloaded by clicking on this link.

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