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We cannot afford to underestimate the environmental impacts of the internet and digital technologies. The large-scale extraction of raw materials, such as lithium, have devastated natural ecosystems and deepened ecological crises, particularly in the global South. Communities in the global South are disproportionately affected by environmental degradation and air and water pollution caused by the production, use and disposal of electronic devices. Moreover, the internet and digital technologies are increasingly being used to censor, surveil, threaten and attack land and environment defenders, and to spread disinformation about the science of climate change.

At the same time, the internet and digital technologies are being harnessed to raise public awareness and to advocate and act collectively for meaningful change. There is enormous potential for the internet and digital technologies to contribute to environmental justice and sustainability; however, this potential will be unrealised without addressing the root causes of the environmental impacts of the internet, and substantial investment in local community-led initiatives to monitor changes in ecosystems, collectively prepare for extreme weather, and mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.

In this joint submission to the open consultation on “The Environmental Impacts and Benefits of the Internet” launched by the ITU Council Working Group on International Internet-related Public Policy Issues (CWG-Internet), the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) address the following questions:

  1. What effects does the internet have on the environment, and vice versa?

  2. How can we improve the environmental impacts of the internet and harness its potential to help address climate-related issues?

  3. What are the policy and regulatory matters associated with the environmental impacts and benefits of the internet?

Read the full submission here.