Announcing Launch of the Montreal Statement on Sustainability in the Digital Age

July 2, 2020

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We are thrilled to announce the launch of the Montreal Statement on Sustainability in the Digital Age. The collective statement from an international group of business, government, and science leaders highlights that we cannot achieve a climate-safe, sustainable, and equitable future without ensuring a secure, safe, and trusted digital world for all.

Developed with the support of leading research and philanthropy organizations from four countries – Canada, the UK, France, and the USA – the statement unites voices of digital and sustainability experts working at the intersection of technology, sustainability, and policy. It is released as the UN’s high-level political forum prepares to meet virtually July 7-16th to launch a Decade of Action toward the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and assess the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We need to bet big on digital technologies, because they provide the kind of exponential transformative power needed to achieve the SDGs. We are making great progress applying digital technologies to help tackle sustainability challenges, but we are still not cooperating enough across the public and private sectors to drive the scale, speed and direction of change we need. The Montreal Statement on Sustainability in the Digital Age outlines areas where we urgently need to take more collaborative action to govern the technology sector and build a digital ecosystem for people and planet,” says David Jensen, Head of Environmental Peacebuilding with the UN Environment Programme.

The Montreal Statement calls for near-term action in five specific areas:

  1. Build a new social contract for the digital age, which addresses individual rights, justice and equity, inclusive access, and environmental sustainability;
  2. Ensure open and transparent access to data and knowledge critical to achieving sustainability and equity;
  3. Foster public and private collaborations to develop and manage AI and other technologies in support of sustainability and equity;
  4. Promote research and innovation to steer digital transformations toward sustainability and equity;
  5. Support targeted communication, engagement and education to advance the social contract.

The need for global cooperation in the digital realm was similarly underlined recently by the UN Secretary-General. In June, António Guterres released a roadmap for filling the digital governance gap, creating a foundation to effectively leverage digital tools to achieve broad sustainability goals, including climate change mitigation.

Heide Hackmann, CEO of the International Science Council (ISC) and member of the Future Earth Governing Council, notes: “The broader international science community is just beginning to explore the powerful opportunities and profound challenges of the digital age, both for science and for society. At the ISC we have adopted this as one of our four key domains of action. The Montreal Statement on Sustainability in the Digital Age, outlines important areas of work that need to be pursued through the closer engagement of science with partners from policy and wider publics.”

The Montreal Statement will be discussed during a side-event at the UN High-Level Political Forum on July 9, exploring collaborative action for digital capacity building to implement the UN’s 2030 SDG Agenda.

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