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Press Release

Frontier technologies are key tools to combat climate change

Latest ITU/UN report highlights potential of eight key technologies to meet Sustainable Development Goal 13

Geneva, 22 April 2020
​From cutting emissions in cities to natural disaster risk reduction, smart water management and precise climate monitoring, frontier technologies in fields such as artificial intelligence, 5G and robotics demonstrate considerable potential to support the battle against climate change, highlights a new ITU/UN report, Frontier technologies to protect the environment and tackle climate change". The report was released to mark the occasion of Earth Day 2020.

The UN report investigates eight fields of innovation: Artificial intelligence (AI); Internet of Things (IoT); 5G; clean energy technology; digital twin; robotics; Space 2.0 technologies; and digitalization and Big Data.

“COVID-19 has made clear that we are all interconnected and that our response must be collective, across countries and sectors and that information and communication technologies (ICTs) have an important role to play in accelerating solutions. How we respond to climate change, as one humanity, must follow the same principles," said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “This report is a call to action for governments, civil society, academia, the scientific community and the technology industry to join UN agencies in their effort to leverage frontier technologies to tackle the urgent climate crisis."

The report offers case studies exploring applications of frontier technologies to reduce air pollution and manage e-waste, support smart water and energy management, generate clean energy, model 'digital twin' cities for disaster risk reduction, support smart agriculture and food security, and monitor our planet's climate and biodiversity.

The report emphasizes the overarching goal of this innovation, the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular SDG 13 on Climate Action. It also highlights the potential of frontier technologies to support the achievement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Paris Agreement's goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°c above pre-industrial levels.

The report concludes with observations and recommendations for the rollout and adoption of  frontier technologies.

These conclusions encourage us to plan for the future, today.

They recognize the potential of frontier technologies to assist countries in 'leapfrogging' economic and social activities known to be detrimental to our environment. But they also caution that frontier technologies are not a panacea – their success in combatting climate change will call for government support to climate action, inclusive innovation engaging all stakeholders, global access to new technological capabilities, and applications of frontier technologies at the scale necessary to achieve global impact.

The report was developed by ITU together with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); UN Environment; United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); United Nations Global Compact; United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat); United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women); and with the support of United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

Additional information on ITU's activities on Environment and Climate Change can be found at: