AI takes on climate change: UN launches grand challenge for developing nations

Daily News Egypt
6 Min Read

The UN Climate Change Technology Executive Committee (TEC), alongside Enterprise Neurosystem, a non-profit open-source AI community, have announced a new initiative to tackle climate change – the AI Innovation Grand Challenge. This ambitious project aims to identify and support the development of AI-powered solutions specifically targeted at assisting developing nations in their climate action efforts.

The launch, held during a high-level event at COP28, emphasized the potential of AI as a valuable weapon in the fight against climate change. UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, Simon Stiell, acknowledged the challenges and risks associated with AI, but believes the Innovation Grand Challenge represents a significant step in harnessing its power for good.

“We are witnessing growing evidence that AI can be an invaluable tool in tackling climate change,” Stiell said. “While remaining mindful of the associated challenges and risks, the Innovation Grand Challenge is a promising step forward in harnessing the power of AI and empowering innovators in developing countries.”

Omar Sultan Al Olama, United Arab Emirates Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, echoed Stiell’s sentiment, highlighting the need to integrate AI into national policies and plans to maximize its effectiveness.

“Harnessing AI as a strategic asset to mitigate climate change requires its integration into national policies and plans,” Al Olama stated. “This facilitates the use of data analytics to align policy with real-time climate data, thereby enhancing its efficacy and advancing technological development and scientific discovery in the field of energy.”

AI is already making waves in the fight against climate change, with applications in areas such as predicting weather patterns, optimizing renewable energy systems, and improving agricultural yields. The COP28 event brought together leaders from governments, the UN, and the private sector to discuss how AI can be further utilized for transformational climate action in developing nations, ensuring equitable access to technology remains a priority.

“We are collaborating with international tech companies to test their ideas in Barbados while contributing to the island’s development,” said Shantal Munro-Knight, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Barbados. “Some ideas include using machine learning and AI to check for the presence of tropical diseases, design hurricane-resistant buildings, and plan infrastructure investment. Collaboration, training, and technology transfer are key to ensuring that AI contributes effectively to climate mitigation and adaptation for small island developing states.”

Addressing the digital divide is crucial to ensure that all nations benefit from AI-powered climate solutions. Moussa Bocar Thiam, Minister of Communications, Telecommunications and the Digital Economy, Senegal, stressed the importance of adapting technology to local contexts and languages.

“It is vital to adapt the technology to take account of the digital divide, especially among those most vulnerable to climate change,” Thiam said. “Integration of chatbot voice with local languages in these emerging technology tools is one solution that would ensure the existing digital divide is taken into account.”

Ali Zaidi, Assistant to the President and National Climate Advisor, United States of America, emphasized the need for responsible AI development and deployment.

“We must manage the risks and seize the promise of artificial intelligence,” Zaidi said. “The United States is committed to doing so, as President Biden’s recent Executive Order on AI demonstrates. By working together, we can responsibly harness the power of this emerging technology to develop AI tools that help mitigate climate change risks, make our communities more sustainable and resilient, and build an equitable clean energy future for all.”

The AI Innovation Grand Challenge falls under the umbrella of the Technology Mechanism Initiative on Artificial Intelligence for Climate Action (#AI4ClimateAction). This initiative focuses on exploring AI’s potential to scale up climate solutions in developing countries, prioritizing least developed countries and small island developing states.

Aligned with UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ call for “reliable and safe” AI that can “supercharge climate action” to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the #AI4ClimateAction Initiative aims to promote climate-resilient and low-emissions development.

The Chairs of the Technology Mechanism, Stig Svenningsen and Erwin Rose, called for further collaborations and partnerships to drive concrete results under the #AI4ClimateAction Initiative, both on policy and implementation levels.

The AI Innovation Grand Challenge marks a significant step in the global fight against climate change. By empowering innovators in developing nations and leveraging the power of AI, this initiative has the potential to create a more sustainable and equitable future for all.

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