COP27 saw world leaders advocate for the role of technology in confronting the parallel challenges of climate change and sustainable economic development.

Emerging economies are forecasted to bear the brunt of the predicted 10% drop in total economic value caused by climate change due to their reliance on climate-sensitive industries such as agriculture. At an event dedicated to fostering technological innovation as a means of supporting countries in implementing the Paris Agreement, the historic disparity between developed and developing countries in benefiting from innovation was made clear. Panellists emphasised that to mitigate these effects, technology had to be deployed fairly and with accountability so that all parties could benefit.

The panel reported that roughly 360 requests had been received from 109 developing countries for assistance with implementing environmentally sound technology.[3] One such technology is distributed ledger technology, known as “blockchain”. Blockchain systems operate as de-centralised records of information that can be used, amongst other things, to ensure that companies and governments are held accountable with regard to their emissions reduction pledges via the transmission of transparent, accessible, and traceable data. Blockchain systems can therefore create a framework of accountability and ensure equitable access to innovative and sustainable technology.

In the private sector, adoption of blockchain in renewable developments has already begun. Australian technology company, Power Ledger, has embarked on a pilot project in India which enables those with solar arrays on their roofs to sell power to others on the grid using a blockchain to record and manage the transactions. Similarly, in South Africa, Sun Exchange allows people with internet connections to buy solar panels online and rent them to businesses, hospitals and schools. Here, blockchain technology enables cross-border payments between beneficiaries and investors to be made without intermediaries and the panels have allowed organisations to reduce their energy costs by 20-30%.

Clyde & Co, in partnership with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, has published a study of the application of smart contracts and blockchain systems in emerging energy markets. The report highlights the way novel technologies such as blockchain may be transformative in creating resilient and sustainable economies in emerging markets that will be capable of withstanding climate change and closing the technology gap to the developed world.