‘Need A Startup Approach’: Views From West Africa On Using The Blockchain And Even Digital Art To Combat Climate Change

Published 5 months ago
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Late last year, COP28, the name given to this gathering, took place in Dubai and, like previous years, the discussion was around figuring out innovative solutions to help tackle the effects of climate change and take stock of the progress that has been made so far. (Source: Getty Images)

Following the COP28 United Nations Conference in Dubai in December, the race is on to find tech-centered solutions to assist in achieving global sustainability goals, say experts.

Each year, world leaders and governments meet to have a series of high-level conversations about how to manage the growing impact of climate change under the auspices of the United Nations (UN). Late last year, COP28, the name given to this gathering, took place in Dubai and, like previous years, the discussion was around figuring out innovative solutions to help tackle the effects of climate change and take stock of the progress that has been made so far.

“For a long time, people were unsure or maybe not aware of the devastating action of the climate issue we have now. COP each year reminds people that there is an issue and to really understand the actual impact of climate change and how it is affecting your lives now and COP centralizes a lot of this information and allows it to be further disseminated afterwards,” says Adiam Gafoo, founder and COO of Arts Help, a global non-profit that uses art as a vehicle for social change.

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With over 21 million followers, Arts Help is one of the world’s largest digital art publishers. They utilize their social platforms to convey different messages about social change, like climate action under the framework of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Adiam Gafoo COO Arts Help (image supplied)

The next wave of climate action plans is due in 2025. Organizations like Arts Help consider themselves non-traditional climate activists who aim to create a means of understanding the jargon around this through all art forms.

“One of the missions of Arts Help is to establish a digital climate library with the United Nations, which they are building over a period of five to six years. The Web3 component of this is for me to basically find innovative ways of how Web3 can build the infrastructure that is going to support it in various ways,” says Del Titus Bawuah, Founder of Web3 Accra and board member of Arts Help.

“The current state of climate change action is at a critical juncture. It’s evident that more aggressive and collaborative efforts are needed globally. The focus should be on implementing actionable strategies that go beyond discussions and lead to tangible results. It’s imperative that we see a shift from pledges to action, with a stronger emphasis on accountability and measurable outcomes,” says Eche Emole, co-founder of Afropolitan, a movement towards creating a digital nation aimed at enabling all Africans, both on the continent and in the diaspora, to live abundant lives.

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“We are dealing with just the basic understanding and many people simply don’t understand the gravity of climate change because they do not see it in their day-to-day lives. So, it is very easy to dismiss this as something that is somewhere else. I think just the basic lack of understanding is the biggest issue facing climate change, so they leave it up to the policy-makers and government because it is seen as their job,” says Gafoo.

Bawuah has a different take on the issue.

“There is a lot of bureaucracy in my opinion with climate change and there needs to be a startup approach to climate change where people have an environment where innovation is the driving force. There is too much red tape and there is also a situation where it is seen as a ‘buzz word’ as opposed to a real-life problem. So, each day, things are not moving quickly enough to get better,” he says.

“I think one of the main challenges is the gap between commitment and implementation. Many nations and organizations pledge to reduce emissions, but actual progress is often slow. Another challenge is the equitable distribution of resources and technology, especially in developing countries that are most affected by climate change. Additionally, there’s a need for more public awareness and education to drive collective action at all levels,” says Emole.

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These reasons have led many to look at innovative solutions like blockchain, for example. Its use is seen by many as revolutionary in tech and has been largely lauded as a tool to bring about change in archaic financial and supply chain management systems. The main proponent of blockchain that makes it unique is its decentralized record of transactions.

“How we approach the future in terms of digital infrastructure is key. In this case you think of the COP approach of understanding that climate change policies can no longer be held in physical documentation, especially if you are promoting things that are positive for the environment. It will be unwise not to consider technology when you are building the new infrastructure,” says Bawuah.

“Also, when you think of this kind of initiative through the lens of Web3, it is highly efficient to have things on blockchain because it is more transparent and it also holds leaders accountable. More importantly, it allows us to consolidate data about the environment in a much more efficient way than has ever been done before.”

So how can blockchain help combat climate change?

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“Blockchain can play a pivotal role in combating climate change by enhancing transparency and traceability in carbon emissions tracking. It can facilitate the creation of a more reliable and efficient carbon credit market, ensuring that emission reductions are accurately recorded and traded. Blockchain’s decentralized nature also allows for more democratic and inclusive participation in climate action initiatives,” says Emole.

“Blockchain is the kind of infrastructure that can consolidate information transparently and distribute it efficiently. I think some institutions have made good strides but how do you access the data? How is data shared between one another and is that transparent? I think that blockchain as an infrastructure, supporting the data and the way we form [an] agreement between one another, is going to be central to changing the future in how we tackle climate change. Digital infrastructure is the way forward and that is going to reduce most carbon emissions,” says Bawuah.

There is still a long way to go in the fight against climate change and while blockchain has potential, it’s not without challenges. The energy consumption of certain blockchain networks is a concern.

“However, these challenges can be managed by adopting more energy-efficient consensus mechanisms like Proof-of-stake. Additionally, integrating blockchain with renewable energy sources can further reduce the carbon footprint associated with its operations,” says Emole.

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