A special event on technological solutions for the SDGs took place as part of the Global Sustainable Technology & Innovation Conference (G-STIC) series.
The event shared key outcomes from the first edition of the Conference, in 2017, offered an early look at themes to be discussed at G-STIC 2018, and showcased examples of market-ready, integrated technological solutions for advancing the SDGs.
It convened following the 2018 STI Forum.
7 June 2018: A special event on technological solutions for the SDGs took place as part of the Global Sustainable Technology & Innovation Conference series (G-STIC). The event shared key outcomes from the first edition of the Conference, in 2017, offered an early look at themes to be discussed at G-STIC 2018, and showcased examples of market-ready, integrated technological solutions for advancing the SDGs.
The event titled, ‘Accelerating Technological Transitions Towards the SDGs,’ convened for a half-day on 7 June 2018, at UN Headquarters in New York, US, in the context of the UN’s third annual Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals (STI Forum 2018), which took place from 5-6 June. The Special Event had six co-hosts: VITO, African Centre for Technology Studies, Asian Institute of Technology, FIOCRUZ, TERI and the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi.
Veerle Vandeweerd, G-STIC, informed participants that the ‘S’ in G-STIC, which originally referred to “science,” has been changed to represent “sustainable,” and the movement has a defined focus on market-ready, integrated technological solutions that can drive achievement of the SDGs. Paulo Gadelha, FIOCRUZ, who is also a member of the 10-Member Group to support the UN’s Technology Facilitation Mechanism, discussed G-STIC’s new cluster on health and STI for advancing the 2030 Agenda, which he said will be featured at G-STIC 2018. Gadelha flagged the importance of advancing universal health care (UHC) and the role of government regulations in bringing health-related technologies to people in need.
Stakeholders presented examples of specific technologies with the potential to advance the SDGs. Dirk Fransaer, VITO, showcased two projects that exemplify the “integrated” approach to technological solutions. First, a deep geothermal site in Belgium taps into the earth’s heat – an inexhaustible resource – to generate electricity, reducing household carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions without needing to rebuild energy-inefficient homes. He said subsidizing solar and wind energy is too costly to reach the scale needed to achieve climate goals on time. In a second example, Fransaer illustrated how water sanitation and household waste management can be combined to advance renewable energy: “if you do them separately, you pay three times; combine them, and you can make a profit.” Fransaer called for policies to encourage ministries to work together to apply existing technologies, thus achieving integrated solutions.
Luis Neves, Global e-Sustainability Institute (GeSI), described GeSI’s Digital Access Index. The Index uses 21 indicators to track the digital industry’s impacts. Sharing findings for the first time, Neves reported that the strongest positive correlations between digital and the SDGs are found in the areas of infrastructure, health and decent work (Goals 9, 3 and 8), and the strongest negative impact is in the area of electronic waste (e-waste), which is addressed in SDG 12. Specifically, he reported that a 5% increase in digital access has correlation/causation with: two babies saved for every 1,000 live births in least developed countries; two weeks of additional schooling for each female learner; and a reduction in consumption-based CO2 emissions equivalent to the closure of 450 coal plants globally.
Owen Rodgers, AT&T, said cities are not only humanity’s growth engine, but also its “consumption engine.” AT&T works with cities to use the “internet of things” to: reduce vehicles’ idling times in traffic; update residents on air quality; adjust streetlamps based on activity and daylight; and facilitate citizen engagement with government. He added that the technology community must figure out how to deliver solutions in low-income settings.
The UN Major Group of Children and Youth noted the risk of entrenching technological “haves and have-nots.”
Helene Molinier, UN Women, said most of the targets of SDG 5 (gender equality) will be unmet in 2030 if current trends continue, but technology and innovation can remove barriers to progress. Molinier called for: technology design processes to include women as users; a high-level commitment to a gender-responsive approach to technology; and evaluating the impact of a data-driven approach, including by looking at long-term impacts of an innovation on women and girls.
A representative of the women’s cooperative Milpa Maguey Tierno de la Mujer Sociedad de Solidaridad Social, in Mexico, described the initiative to improve the use of local resources like agave, while strengthening members’ access to property. The cooperative has been producing agave syrup for 25 years as a means to meet households’ economic needs while using local resources sustainably. The cooperative carries out reforestation, uses solar panels and other alternative sources of energy, and emphasizes the use of local and indigenous knowledge.
Louise De Tremerie, UN Major Group of Children and Youth, stressed that technology, inherently neither good nor bad, must maximize potential benefits and minimize potential harms. While young people are excited about new technologies, she said, they also express concerns about privacy, environmental consequences, data management and ethical usage. She also noted the risk of entrenching technological “haves and have-nots” due to unequal access and affordability.
G-STIC 2018 will convene in Brussels, Belgium, from 28-30 November 2018. [IISD RS Meeting Coverage]