United Nations launches innovation challenge at COP28 to deploy AI to combat climate change 

By Mayank Chhaya –

Artificial intelligence or AI is now becoming a defining tool to take on a diversity of challenges posed by climate change. It has received special attention at the ongoing COP28 or Conference of the Parties 28 underway in Dubai.

The UN Climate Change Technology Executive Committee (TEC), along with Enterprise Neurosystem, a non-profit open-source artificial intelligence (AI) community, has launched the AI Innovation Grand Challenge to identify and support the development of AI-powered solutions for climate action in developing countries.

“We are seeing increasing evidence that artificial intelligence can prove an invaluable instrument in tackling climate change. While we remain mindful of the associated challenges and risks of AI, the Innovation Grand Challenge is a promising step forward in harnessing the power of artificial intelligence and empowering innovators in developing countries,” UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell said.

Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, United Arab Emirates, said: “Harnessing artificial intelligence as a strategic asset to mitigate climate change involves integrating it into national policies and plans. This integration 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. These measures and policies should not be viewed in isolation, but rather as a unified global initiative, acknowledging that climate change transcends geographical boundaries and requires concerted global efforts.”

Artificial intelligence is already being used to predict climate patterns and extreme weather events, improve crop yields, reduce water usage or optimize renewable energy systems.

Ali Zaidi, Assistant to President President Joe Biden and National Climate Advisor, said: “We must manage the risks and seize the promise of artificial intelligence. 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.”

Several other countries have also begun to explore AI as a tool to combat climate change by drawing on its predictive and analytical capabilities.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called on the international community to develop AI that is “reliable and safe” and that can “supercharge climate action” to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals as well as initiatives to advance climate-resilient and low-emissions development.

On a separate but equally important front, COP28 has mobilized over $83 billion in the first five days, which is seen by many as an important development in support of climate action.

“These include the first ever declarations on food systems transformation and health, plus declarations on renewable energy and efficiency, as well as initiatives to decarbonize heavy emitting industries,” an official announcement said.

The pledges include funding for Loss and Damage, supporting those on the front lines of the climate crisis with $726 million already pledged to date, $3.5 billion in new money announced to replenish the Green Climate Fund (GCF), $133.6 million toward the Adaptation Fund, $129.3 million for the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDC), $31 million to the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF),  a $30 billion catalytic fund, ALTÉRRA, to drive positive climate action announced by the United Arab Emirates, an increase of $9 billion annually for 2024 and 2025 to finance climate-related projects by the World Bank and $22.6 billion by Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) for climate action.

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