IGF panel defends legitimacy to discuss climate change

By Rachael Davies

Disagreements sprung up on whether climate change is a suitable topic for a conference on internet governance, during a panel discussion on ‘Internet Futures and the Climate Crisis’.

Max Senges, Lead for Research Partnerships and Internet Governance for Google in Berlin, voiced his concerns on whether the Internet Governance Forum 2019 is the best forum for such discussions. He posed the question to the panel of climate activists: “Is it really the best use of our time to go after this 2% of emissions?”

This statistic refers to the contribution that the information communications and technology industry produces, encompassing emails, web searches, and online storage. Senges went on to say that perhaps a separate platform for debate should be created, outside of general internet governance. 

This notion was challenged by multiple climate activists on the panel. “I think this topic is at the heart of internet governance,” said Marianne Franklin of the Internet Rights and Principles Coalition. “It’s impossible to separate the issues around the climate crisis from internet governance. We are the climate, this is our environment. We want the internet to survive, so the planet needs to survive.”

Lea Rosa Holtfreter, the panel representative for civil society, seconded Franklin, reasoning that the diversity and reach of the IGF is its greatest asset. “Bringing people from all the different sectors together, from the governmental sector, from the private sector, from civil society, is absolutely crucial”, she said. 

The event took advantage of these different perspectives by breaking into smaller focus groups around specific topics, from misinformation and trolling online to intelligent, sustainable design. The flow of information and lively discussions around the room was evidence enough for the IGF being a viable forum to explore the relationship between climate change and the internet.

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