The Chain of Change [Part 4]

How Blockchain Can Help Achieve UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals to Break the Chains of Poverty, Inequality and Climate Change


Impact Blockchain is LATTICE80’s initiative to bring technology and community together to create solutions with social impact. Industry experts early on have recognized the potential for blockchain to transform how transactions are created and processed across industries and between businesses and individuals, thanks to a secure and distributed way of recording and sharing data in decentralized networks.

In this four-part series, we look into how the blockchain platform can help achieve UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals “to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind.” The 17 SDGs are part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a 15-year plan adopted by 193 world leaders in the September 2015 summit that enjoins all countries “to promote prosperity while protecting the planet”.

This fourth and last installment takes on the last five goals of the 17 SDGs. Goals 13, 14 and 15 focus on reversing climate change. Goals 16 and 17 focus on fostering partnerships among nations to sustain any progress achieved in this 15-year plan.

Click here for the first, second and third parts of this series.

Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Increasing global temperature, extreme weather conditions and changing weather patterns are some of the impacts of climate change we see and feel everyday. Ongoing emissions of greenhouse and carbon gases at its current concentration in the atmosphere ensure that the earth is still about to get warmer, causing oceans to warm, glaciers to melt and ultimately, sea levels to rise. The extreme and unpredictable weather conditions cause losses in the hundreds of billions of dollars. With the warmer climate, on the other hand, yields from grain and other major crops have significantly declined. Clearly, the impacts of climate change are threatening human life in more ways than one, and can wreak irreversible consequences unless we all act now.

What can blockchain do to encourage climate action?

As a global response to the threat of climate change, countries adopted the Paris Agreement in December 2015 where everyone agreed to work towards limiting global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Centigrade. Investments in clean energy can definitely reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuels. “As countries, regions, cities and businesses work to rapidly implement the Paris Climate Change Agreement, they need to make use of all innovative and cutting-edge technologies available. Blockchain could contribute to greater stakeholder involvement, transparency and engagement and help bring trust and further innovative solutions in the fight against climate change, leading to enhanced climate actions,” said Alexandre Gellert Paris, Associate Programme Officer at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC).

Blockchain can be leveraged as a platform to provide transparency, efficiency and cost reduction in trading and reporting. IBM and Energy Blockchain Lab, for example, are working to develop a blockchain-based system for trading and recording carbon assets in China that would ensure transparency in the trade and guarantee transactions are valid and processed efficiently. A great boost in the use of clean and renewable energy are blockchain-based solutions that allow consumers to buy and sell energy in smaller quantities through tokens or digital assets. Power Ledger, Grid+ and LO3 Energy are only a few of the several existing P2P energy trading projects we have today. Moreover, the technology can be used to track and report greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions and monitor progress under the Paris Agreement.

Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources

Our oceans, seas and marine resources provide us with the most basic things we need to live like water and food, and even the oxygen we need to breathe. Our rivers and water ways are where ancient cities once begin to emerge and flourish as vital channels of trade and transportation.

However, pollution and acidification is deteriorating our waters and threaten to destroy marine ecosystems and biodiversity. Incorrect fishing practices contribute to the rapid depletion of many fish species.

What can blockchain do to help conserve our oceans and marine resources?

Blockchain provides a platform for a more transparent transport, tracking and reporting of fish throughout the supply chain. Tokens and cryptocurrency offer investment and earning opportunities in rewarding sustainable actions such as recycling and proper waste disposal.

In Viant’s blockchain-based certification system, a collaboration with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), fish are tagged with a QR code identifier and registered in the system right after being caught. This allows the fish to be tracked and followed from the distributor to the restaurant that served it, allowing verification if the fishing harvest came from a sustainable fishery.

Blockchain’s efficient tagging and reporting capabilities can also help enforce quotas on fishing ships to discourage illegal fishing.

Cryptocurrencies and digital tokens like NatureCoin and Plastic Bank’s Social Plastic incentivize users for their sustainable actions and ultimately connect individuals with their environmental causes. NatureCoin rewards users when they recycle plastics, tins and cans. Plastic Bank monetizes plastic waste exchanged in their designated collection centers.

Goal 15: Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss

Nearly 31 percent of Earth is land and is home to millions of animals, insects and plants that provide most of the resources we need to live. Plants provide 80 percent of human diet and crops such as rice, corn and wheat provide 60 percent of energy intake. About 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihood while some 2.6 billion people live on agriculture. Forests not only provide habitat to millions of species, but are also important sources of clean air and water, and even medicine. Forests and mountains are crucial land structures that shield from weather disturbances and even neutralize effects of climate change.
Deforestation, desertification and illicit poaching and trafficking of wildlife threaten the health of our planet and communities. Deforestation and forest degradation destroys habitats for all species, decreases freshwater quality, increases soil erosion, and results to higher emissions of carbon into the atmosphere. Eight percent of the 8,300 animal breeds are now extinct and 22 percent are on the brink. We continue to lose 12 million hectares of arable land each year due to drought and desertification.

What can blockchain do to help sustainably manage forests?
Protecting the trees and forests is the biggest action we can take. Blockchain can help in tracking, monitoring and reporting the origin of wood products to discourage and sanction illegal logging activities. Transparent supply chains for forest products such as palm oil, beef, or lumber, to name a few can likewise encourage huge firms to buy commodities from responsible suppliers. Blockchain-based solutions for trading and tracking carbon can be both time and cost efficient.

Goal 16: Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies

Sustainable development can only be achieved within peaceful, just and inclusive communities. Without peace, stability, respect for human rights and effective governance, we continue to live in an increasingly divided world. High levels of armed violence, crime, sexual exploitation, and corruption threaten a nation’s economic and social development; lack of access to justice perpetuate long standing grievances that can last for generations.
To achieve our SDGs, we need effective and inclusive public institutions that can deliver basic services, quality education and healthcare, fair economic policies and inclusive environmental protection. People should be able to live, work and contribute to society without fear from any form of violence, abuse or discrimination.

What can blockchain do to promote peace, justice and strong institutions?

Blockchain’s decentralized ledger technology can be used to hold vast amounts of data such as public records, personal identifications and other documents that can serve as immutable proof of ownership or validity. This can settle disputes over land or any property of value over which conflicts and disputes usually arise.

Unethical electoral processes can perpetuate corruption in governments. A step towards establishing effective governance are voting solutions such as the one developed by Horizon State and on blockchain. Built on a secure digital ballot box that cannot be hacked, where results cannot be altered and voter identities are protected, voters can freely exercise their right to vote.

Goal 17: Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

If there is one key in achieving all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, it will be partnerships. Everyone needs to come together – governments, civil society, scientists, academia and the private sector from both developed and developing countries – to achieve the universal aim of ending poverty, fighting inequalities and tackling climate change.

The technology today enables us to be more interconnected with each other. We are able to share ideas and foster innovation with our access to all the information and knowledge from anywhere and everywhere in the world. Coordinating policies to help developing countries manage their debt, promote investment for the least developed can help achieve sustainable growth and development.

Our 17 goals can be attained and sustained by mobilizing existing and additional resources; developed countries will need to fulfill their official development assistance commitments.

What can blockchain do to revitalize global partnership for sustainable development?

The very nature of blockchain and its applications such as cryptocurrencies is driven by community. Its use of smart contracts that creates authenticated transparency and security allow partnerships to thrive. Blockchain can be best applied on solutions that operationalize sharing economy where it can provide an efficient system of direct peer-to-peer transactions. A sharing economy is an inclusive and collaborative system that puts idle resources to profitable use.

P2P Energy Trading on the Blockchain