By Tom Baumann
Founder and Co-Chair
Climate Chain Coalition
Blockchain for Good
My Path to this topic...
After nearly 10 years in a variety of “professional service” roles, my first venture into using digital solutions started in 2010 by launching an online platform to support “Standards 2.0” in the climate and sustainability space. I first encountered and got involved with blockchain in 2015 as a promising new tool for MRV (measurement, reporting, verification) of digital assets for climate and sustainability assets (e.g. carbon credits -> carbon tokens). These digital assets could subsequently modernize carbon markets as well as activate existing markets (e.g. commodity markets, capital markets) to reduce GHG emissions.
Following that discovery phase, in 2016 I co-founded a company combining digital tools (e.g. distributed ledger technology “DLT”, internet of things “IoT”, data science) for commodity markets. In 2017 I co-authored some leading work, as the lead researcher on climate for the Blockchain Research Institute, and also for the World Bank’s emerging work on carbon markets and innovation. In late 2017, with the support of the UNFCCC Secretariat, I co-founded the Climate Chain Coalition as an open global multi-stakeholder innovation network for digital solutions to enhance climate actions. Then in 2018 I co-founded Adaptation Ledger, combining digital innovations and governance innovations with financial innovation (Vulnerability Reduction Credits) to mobilize adaptation finance.
Tom's Reading List
Blockchain (Distributed Ledger Technologies) can be a tool for much more than a digital currency or a registry for “carbon accounting” – to understand the array of potential applications, the following short-list (from 100s of reports I’ve researched) provides different ways of thinking about blockchain applications and allied digital solutions for climate and sustainability:
General overview of blockchain applications and various ways it can change the world
Beyond blockchain and how it's better with allied digital solutions, e.g. IoT, AI, etc.
Integrating digital innovations with governance innovation and financial innovation
Blockchain Revolution and the Blockchain Research Institute
Published in 2016, Blockchain Revolution presents an easy-to-grasp overview of the technology applications, and the implications for our future. Having worked with Don Tapscott’s Global Solution Networks during 2015-2016, in 2017 I subsequently became the lead researcher on climate at the Blockchain Research Institute (BRI). BRI’s extensive faculty of researchers has published numerous valuable papers that provide a mind-expanding appreciation for the potential ways blockchain and allied digital solutions can address climate and planetary stewardship.
The Case for a Digital Ecosystem for the Environment
This report presents a vision for a digital ecosystem for the planet – from open data, digital infrastructure, and algorithms, to applications to serve policy and economic goals. Although this report does not focus on blockchain, it provides great context within which blockchain can add value to related initiatives.
Towards our Common Digital Future
This comprehensive report (nearly 500 pages) describes a vision for a “digitalized sustainable society”, providing explanations of the pros and cons for digital solutions within the perspective of the competition for global innovation leadership (not just a technological issue).
Some online lists of “Blockchain for Good”
There are over 1000 blockchain initiatives focused on sustainability, including climate. These lists provide links to many different applications around the world.
Although I am an engineer and spent years working with Cleantech companies, I have a passion for Governance Innovation because governance today is a weak link and new forms of governance are needed to generate the most value from emerging digital solutions. Arthur Brock, co-founder of Holochain has not only shared very thought-provoking posts about how digital solutions can support governance innovation, Holochain.org is a real example.
This report is widely considered a milestone in the evolving vision about ways blockchain and allied digital solutions can be used in the transformation and scaling-up of climate markets. The report describes how digital assets and digital MRV (measurement, reporting, verification) can enable market innovation.
About the Author
I started in the “environmental” sector in the early 1990s, and subsequently specialized in cleantech, climate and more broadly sustainability at the boundaries of innovations. Trained as an economist and engineer, I worked with public, private and nonprofit organizations around the world – quickly gaining a multi-dimensional perspective on the “value chain”. I am a serial entrepreneur co-founding 6 startups since 2007 in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. My focus is “Transformational Change for Transformational Change”, meaning, in order to achieve the SDGs and Paris Agreement (i.e. transformed social and economic systems that are sustainable and carbon neutral), first we need to transform our toolkit that enables transformational change (i.e. there’s widespread recognition that existing institutions and policy instruments are inadequate to implement actions for transformational change, as well as being a mismatch for the digital age). Digitally-enabled solutions – the technologies and the new socio-economic systems enabled – provide the open infrastructure of data, controls, incentives/disincentives, etc. to enable transformational change.