Blockchain Technology could be a panacea to climate change effects but is Africa ready?

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By Alfrique Mwana and Angela Mutiso

“Matters of climate change are matters of life and death and should not be politicised, commodified or objectified. It is a justice matter. It is a moral issue. It is essentially ethical.” Rev. Dr. Lesmore

The world is grappling with a myriad of challenges caused by climate change, from food insecurity to water scarcity, intermittent weather patterns, droughts, and floods that ravage different countries, especially in Africa. The climate debate in Kenya is taking place at all levels, and every sector is restructuring and aligning its operations to make them sustainable and environmentally friendly. It is a serious war that calls for more than emissions control. Necessity is the mother of all invention; climate change has necessitated the adoption of technology to reduce its adverse effects. Pollutants are now being regenerated to make them less harmful to the environment. The application of technology allows the government to monitor pollution and take necessary action. Air and noise pollution detectors can be fitted in various places to collect data and inform decision-makers about necessary actions to be taken against those responsible. In the new climatic world order, manufactured products that pose a danger to the soil are made from biodegradable organic materials.

The panacea in the climatic war is blockchain technology. According to Dabkara (2022), blockchain technology is a digital, decentralized database that enables the seamless flow of data in a secure manner. As noted by Ivey (2023), blockchain technology can be effective in tackling the effects of climate change through the creation and administration of carbon credits. In this arrangement, manufacturers are allowed to emit a certain amount of greenhouse gases, whilst other businesses and organizations can purchase carbon credits from these manufacturers to reduce emissions by planting more trees that absorb the gases.

“The most important foundation for developing strong climate action programs and policies is to ensure that climate data is correctly and transparently attributed. This is where blockchain can help. Its ability to securely track and share data indicates that it has the potential to significantly influence the way climate change is addressed,” asserts Dabkara.

Essentially, adopting this technology in the fight against climate change calls for transparency and honesty, both locally and globally. In a world where truth is hard to come by, and countries, especially in the global north, are reluctant to compensate the global south for the impact of climate change, blockchain will reduce fraud and ensure that carbon credits are guaranteed and utilized for their intended purpose. She contends that the transactions of carbon credits can be tracked in real time and documented using blockchain technology, which is a decentralized ledger. During the climate summit COP27 in Cairo, Egypt, countries ratified the proposal to create a loss and damage fund to assist vulnerable countries that have been adversely affected by climate change. This fund is meant to address the harm caused by emissions. However, months after the agreement was entered into, the fund is yet to be set up, and countries in the global north are expected to remit their contributions. The management of the loss and damage fund can become more transparent and effective if blockchain technology is used. Furthermore, this technology is immutable and provides a secure source for any information, making it essential for climate governance and significant in its capability to promote global cooperation.

Is Africa ready for blockchain and carbon credit technology? According to Dr. Ezekiel Lesmore, Africa is far from ready to accommodate blockchain and carbon credit technology in the fight against climate change. Dr Lesmore contends that the global campaign for carbon credits is a neocolonialism idea promoted by global northern countries. Speaking during the 3rd climate change conference held at Daystar University, where academicians decried the efforts of the government and Kenyans to combat and mitigate the effects of climate change across the country, Dr Lesmore averred that the West should take responsibility to reduce emissions and compensate for the damages they have caused to developing countries.  He said further that carbon credits will be dangled like carrots to African countries as a demand for submission and loyalty. Dr Lesmore contends that current realities pose significant challenges to climate adaptation and resilience. This is particularly evident in the deteriorating conditions faced by impoverished communities, primarily due to the actions of major emitters and polluters. As regards Africa’s ability to combat the effects of climate change, he emphasises that African governments do not require incentives from Western countries to actively participate in climate change mitigation efforts. 

Citizens of Africa need to decolonise their minds, stop reliance on aid, restore their values, and change their behaviour towards the environment. The increasing demand for climate-conscious products is driving businesses to engage in green-washing to avoid penalties and deceive the public into purchasing their products. It must be remembered that blockchain technology operates on the premise of honesty and transparency for accountability and effectiveness. In a continent where values and morality have become scarce, it is unlikely that this technology will have accurate data to inform mitigation measures. In Kenya, for example, corruption and telling lies to please the public and investors are commonplace, and public money is not accounted for, blockchain technology might not work. This mirrors the situation in many African countries.(Ivey, 2023) states that the adoption of blockchain technology will have an effect on individuals and organizations in the environmental sector, particularly the climate change sub-sector.

Promoting sustainable incentive practices: Incentivizing individuals and organizations encourages them to engage in sustainable environmentally friendly activities. However, this practice is difficult to sustain. Blockchain technology has the potential to develop a structured manner to incentivize businesses that contribute to climate initiatives like recycling programs, waste management, emission reduction, and energy consumption reduction, motivating businesses to increasingly adopt climate-friendly practices and contribute to global climate goals. 

Encouraging Green Financing: With the support of central banks, banks in Kenya have embarked on green financing to support organizations and individuals in activities that mitigate climate change effects. Although it is a laudable initiative, it is challenging to track initiatives on the ground about the financing. Blockchain’s ability to immutably store this data and tokenize assets can help solve this problem.

Ivey states, “Smart contracts in blockchain can be used to encourage countries globally to make their climate commitments with a deposit. This will ensure greater enforcement and minimize the chances of fake commitments. If a country fails to meet its carbon offset limits, its deposit could be held or given to those who have upheld theirs.”

Supply chain management: Blockchain technology is also used in supply chain management to help with climate change. It helps businesses find ways to lower their carbon emissions and make more eco-friendly decisions. With blockchain, we can keep track of how much carbon is produced by products and materials as they move through the supply chain. This encourages eco-friendly manufacturing and consumption, which can significantly cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.

Monitoring and reporting carbon emissions: Blockchain technology can help keep an eye on carbon emissions from various sources like businesses, vehicles, and buildings. This means that governments and organizations can measure and report their emissions more accurately. They can also track how well they are doing in reducing emissions by using a decentralized ledger to monitor emissions. Dabkara (2022) avers that the implementation of programs to combat climate change effects is not without challenges globally. A lot of data has been and continues to be produced globally, posing a challenge in tracking and tracing of data. She believes that blockchain technology is pivotal in enabling climate action and as technology advances more improvements that will boost the usage of this blockchain.

The integration of blockchain technology into various aspects of climate change mitigation and adaptation offers promising solutions to the complex challenges posed by environmental degradation. It has the potential to revolutionize how we approach climate action, making it more transparent, accountable, and effective. However, as with any technology, its success in Africa and other regions will depend on addressing unique challenges, including governance, cultural factors, and the capacity to harness the technology for sustainable development. Climate change is a global crisis, and innovative solutions like blockchain can play a vital role in addressing its impacts and promoting a more sustainable future for all.

As (Ivey, 2023) puts it every technology has its share of challenges and limitations, and blockchain technology is not exceptional. One challenge is the need for standardization and agreement among all parties involved. Blockchain requires a common set of rules and protocols to effectively handle carbon credits and monitor emissions. Another difficulty is the scalability of blockchain technology. Many blockchain networks can only handle a limited number of transactions because they have a small capacity. If blockchain is widely used for managing carbon credits or tracking emissions, this could become a problem. Lastly, there are concerns about the energy consumption of blockchain technology. While it has environmental benefits for fighting climate change, the energy needed for blockchain transactions may offset some of these advantages.

Alrique Mwana is a communication expert – ([email protected]) while Angela Mutiso is the Editorial Consultant of the Accountant Journal [email protected]


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