A new International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and United Nations (UN) report titled Frontier technologies
to protect the environment and tackle climate change, says from cutting emissions in cities to natural disaster risk
reduction, smart water management and precise climate monitoring, frontier technologies in fields such as artificial
intelligence, 5G and robotics demonstrate considerable potential to support the battle against climate change.
The ITU is a specialised UN agency responsible for issues that concern information and communication
The report investigates eight fields of innovation; Artificial Intelligence (AI); Internet of Things (IoT); 5G; clean
energy technology; digital twin; robotics; Space 2.0 technologies; and digitalisation and big data.
ITU secretary-general Houlin Zhao says Covid-19 has made clear that we are all interconnected, and that our
response must be collective, across countries and sectors, and that information and communication technologies
(ICTs) have an important role to play in accelerating solutions. “How we respond to climate change, as one
humanity, must follow the same principles. This report is a call to action for governments, civil society, academia,
the scientific community and the technology industry to join UN agencies in their effort to leverage frontier
technologies to tackle the urgent climate crisis,” Zhao says.
The report offers case studies exploring applications of frontier technologies to reduce air pollution and manage
e-waste, support smart water and energy management, generate clean energy, model “digital twin” cities for
disaster risk reduction, support smart agriculture and food security, and monitor our planet’s climate and
The report emphasises the overarching goal of this innovation, the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for
Sustainable Development, in particular SDG 13 on Climate Action.
It also highlights the potential of frontier technologies to support the achievement of the United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to
1.5°c above pre-industrial levels.
The report concludes with observations and recommendations for the rollout and adoption of frontier
These conclusions encourage us to plan for the future, today.
They recognise the potential of frontier technologies to assist countries in “leapfrogging” economic and social
activities known to be detrimental to our environment.
But they also caution that frontier technologies are not a panacea; their success in combatting climate change will
call for government support to climate action, inclusive innovation engaging all stakeholders, global access to new
technological capabilities, and applications of frontier technologies at the scale necessary to achieve global impact.