Are blockchain and UN SDGs compatible?

27 August 2019
Ambassador of SDGs highlights potential of blockchain for sustainable development

This year’s Earth Overshoot Day, the date on which humanity’s resource consumption for the year exceeds the Earth’s capacity to regenerate those resources, occurred on July 29, 2019 and earlier than ever before. This is the backdrop against which Mark Buckley, Ambassador of the UN Sustainability Goals (SDGs), began his keynote during the recent Blockchance 2019 conference in Hamburg. People should be open to new technologies, he pointed out, and noted: “The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones.” Blockchain may yet help solve many environmental problems and eventually even avert climate change, Buckley said, and outlined how Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) can help meet the 17 SDGs.

Germany not fully meeting sustainability goals

The United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to secure sustainable development on economic, social and ecological levels by 2030 and are binding targets for all U.N. members. The SDGs are like a kind of “round pyramid” that can be categorised according to the environment, society and economy. Goal No.17: Partnerships For Achieving The Goals is key to all these projects, Buckley stressed. Germany ranks sixth out of 162 countries in terms of sustainability programmes, but the nation has yet to fully meet any of the goals, according to the 478-page Sustainable Development Report 2019. Germany is well placed in terms of Goal No. 9: Industry, Innovation And Infrastructure, for instance, but should undertake greater efforts to attract more women to scientific and engineering professions. Major deficits were noted in terms of sustainable consumption and production, climate protection measures and the protection of oceans and seas. Denmark, on the other hand, leads the global SDG ranking and has already met three targets.

Pioneering role of blockchain

Blockchain is playing a pioneering role en route to sustainable development, Buckley stressed. DLT is presently impacting individual SDGs. People who do have bank accounts can do financial transactions without intermediaries on the blockchain. This helps meet the first sustainability goal of eradicating poverty. Blockchain technology also leads to numerous new business models in line with the ninth. By decentralizing and democratizing elections, administration, etc., blockchain can help reduce social and economic inequality within and among countries (Goal No. 10). The technology also makes supply chains e.g. of food, fully traceable, which in turn boosts Goal No.12: Responsible Consumption and Production. The technology behind blockchain is considered transparent and trustworthy and can promote Goal No. 16: Peace, Justice And Strong Institutions and the seventeenth goal. However, blockchain consumes huge sums of energy and emits vast amounts of CO2. This problem has yet to be resolved.

Hamburg updating climate plan, strategies to follow

Hamburg is prioritising the reduction of CO2 and has set its sights on slashing carbon dioxide emissions by 55 per cent come 2030 over 1990 levels. The senate is due to present strategies for achieving these goals in trade, commerce, services, industry, transport and private households by the end of 2019. Some Hamburg-based companies are already relying on climate-friendly technologies. Aurubis AG, for instance, supplies HafenCity East with CO2-free industrial heat via a 3.7 km long heat pipe. This project is unique in Germany and in its complexity and saves around 20,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.

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