The UN Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) used our electronic voting solution Electis to pick their representatives for the forthcoming climate conference in Egypt (COP27). The WGC is one of nine official observers for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and includes 34 Women’s and Environmental civil society organisations. The networks’ goal is to hold member states accountable when it comes to keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees celcius while respecting human rights and Women’s and Gender Issues in the process.
“Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity.” (WGC, key demands for COP26)
The WGC is the second UNFCCC constituency that decided to adopt a democratic governance model after the network of Youth and Children organisations (YOUNGO) has used Electis to democratically decide on their focal points in 2021 (read more here).
The Electis voting solution is based on the Tezos blockchain. Different to other Blockchains, Tezos relies on its own democratic governance structure and is also based on a build-in consensus mechanism that uses significantly less energy than Blockchains such as Bitcoin or Etherium. Therefore, it makes sense that a Tezos-based solution has become the go-to e-voting tool for organisations concerned about climate change and their carbon footprint.
“I had compared other possible voting tools and felt most confident with this election tool for this process” (Patricia Bohland, coordinator of the Women & Gender Constituency).
Blockchains and their carbon footprint
Blockchains are distributed ledgers, providing a transparent and distributed way of storing information. The technology has first been implemented as the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, but has also been a revolutionising force in other use-cases, such as e-voting. The distributed ledger allows to transparently store election results online and makes it basically impossible to tamper with the results, as there is no single authority with the power to validate transactions on the ledger.
In the heated debates about Blockchains, cryptocurrencies and NFTs today, the carbon footprint of the technology has been widely critized. As blockchains don’t need a central authority to validate transactions, they rely on the network to create and validate new blocks of information in a process called “proof of work” or “mining”. This process involves solving mathematical puzzles requiring heavy computer calculations. These calculations are using a lot of energy and are the main culprit for the bad reputations of blockchains in terms of energy sustainability. For example, Bitcoin has been estimated to have used roughly 76 billion kWh in 2021 (Fortune, March 21).
However, state-of-the-art blockchains are solving this energy problem through different mechanisms of block validation. Tezos is using the so-called “proof-of-stake” mechanisms or “baking”. This essentially means that the verifyers are invested in the blockchain — they hold a stake — and are incentivised to act in goodwill. In this process, an eligible baker is chosen by an algorithm where bakers with higher stakes and reputations are more likely to be picked out. This process is much more efficient and less costly than the proof-of-work mechanism and uses only a fraction of its energy.
How Blockchain can support sustainable development
There are many ways in which Blockchain can be used in the fight against climate change. The transparent ledger can facilitate decentralized transactions between suppliers and demanders and therefore help to improve carbon trading by recording and transfering information flows reliably. Also, blockchains can be used to facilitate clean energy trading on a peer-to-peer level. Consumers can buy, sell and trade their renewable energy without a middleman. Finally, it can help the transparent flow of climate finance as well as being used as a transparent ledger to track and report climate emissions.
“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.” (Alexandre Gellert Paris, Associate Programme Officer at UNFCCC)
Last but not least, the technology can help enhance democratic representation in the climate debate by using electronic voting and participation tools based on the blockchain. This is what organisations such as YOUNGO and WGC are already using today and thereby they set an example for future COPs. People across the world should not have to solely rely on their national representatives in the climate negotiations but should be able to directly vote for representatives or specific climate policies they want to see implemented at the UN level.
By Lena Melcher