Recent unexpected threats to our common safety and public goods, including public health, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the increasing activity of individual digital terrorism or the Russian invasion of Ukraine, have shown that our societies are not as safe as we thought. In association with the climate disaster we all are facing, the tensions resulting from increasing water scarcity affecting the most vulnerable communities of the world, demographic forecasts and emerging nationalistic movements, such as BREXIT among many other, we are facing unprecedent threats that should foster a clear call for action. Any deep reflection on these issues must lead us to safer, cleaner and more resilient and cooperative societies, making use of novel forms of digital governance that must necessarily consider human agency[1], be centered on people and based on changing collective behaviours[2].

Feminist Climate Action in West Africa, TINIGUENA, Guinea Bissau

Under this context, eradicating poverty, reducing inequalities and achieving sustainable development in the Global South should mobilize our common interests in a way fostering an inclusive and green transition in the emerging digital age.

The goal of K4P Alliances is to promote Sustainable and Healthy Territories through collaborative research and innovative social practices fostering Human Agency and the governance of data ecologies towards greening our economies, promoting healthier societies and reducing inequalities in the digital age. This will be achieve through the implementation of pilot projects oriented towards the target of carbon neutrality, or “net zero”, by 2050, providing capacity building and fostering new jobs through community-based participatory research and innovation.

The pilot projects will be implemented through an international network of centers of excellence promoting “data ecologies” through the integration of advanced forms of remote sensing and Earth Observation systems in close articulation with other data collection systems and local actors. They will consider engaging people and experts through all areas of knowledge, together with forms of institutional innovation, namely through independent and autonomous collaborative laboratories involving interface and intermediation activities with the public and private sectors. The focus is on the multi-dimensional and interlinked SDGs that shaped the 4 main pillars of the 2030 agenda:

  • People: promoting the basic human right of access to public security and healthy working conditions for all, with experimentation, observations and recommendations of public policies on planetary health and sustainable and healthy territories, as well as on health and disease determinants that affect the most vulnerable populations;
  • Planet: guaranteeing the minimization of emissions through reduced use of fossil fuels, and the capture and conversion of CO2 in complex rural and coastal landscapes in association with land use change and management, soil monitoring, water management and carbon observation, together with the stepwise experimentation and development of smart regulatory regimes towards the effective implementation of carbon markets;
  • Prosperity: sustainable land, water and soil management (e.g., biomes, mangroves and biodiversity in tropical areas), together with the social and economic valorization of biological assets (e.g. natural products) and the development of regional bioeconomies;
  • Partnerships: Engaging people and experts throughout all areas of knowledge to help stimulating a cultural movement promoting Human Agency and the governance of data ecologies towards greening our economies through collaborative innovation and an international network of “Collaborative Laboratories”. The goal is to consider adequate social norms at local level and encourage people and local actors to generate new ideas and insights, involving interface and intermediation activities with the public and private sectors, together with capacity building at institutional and human levels create new jobs and markets.
Solar energy at Morro da Babilónia, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The rationale of the program relies on the fact that the climate crisis is probably the biggest challenge humanity is facing. Its effects in the field of health led the World Health Organization, WHO, to declare that “the climate crisis threatens to annihilate the progress of the last 50 years in global health and poverty reduction and to further widen the inequalities in health that exist between and within different populations” and to recognize that “climate change is the greatest global threat to human health and the Paris Agreement is potentially the most impactful health agreement of the 21st century” (WHO, 2021). In turn, there is no sustainable development without guaranteeing the rights of all people, which requires taking into account the connection between the “ecological footprint” indicators and those associated with the “social footprint” (i.e., poverty, inequality, violation of basic rights).

This program's main focus is to foster new initiatives that accelerate the achievement of carbon neutrality. We live with carbon, we need and produce carbon in most of our daily activities and achieving the ideal situation of “net zero” means change, together with the development of green/blue economies and healthier societies. It means changing our daily routines and work habits, as well as our cities, transport, agriculture, and industry in a way achieving a balance between the carbon emitted into the atmosphere, and the carbon removed from it. This balance – or net zero – will happen when the amount of carbon we add to the atmosphere is no more than the amount removed.

To reach net zero, together with greening our economies and promoting healthier societies, emissions from homes and cities, transport, agriculture, and industry will need to be significantly reduced in the coming decades, together with the suppression of forest fires and other non-economic highly pollutant situations. During this change process over the coming decades, the ‘residual’ emissions will need to be removed from the atmosphere: either by changing how we use our land so it can absorb more carbon dioxide, or by being extracted directly through technologies known as carbon capture, usage, and storage – CCUS.

For this change to happen, we need to understand better “Human Agency” and our emerging collective behaviours, particularly in the Global South, in a way to guarantee the sustainability of the populations, simultaneously with their right to become developed. And this requires the governance of complex and massive amounts of data and their synergies (i.e., “data ecologies”), including new satellite-based data, together with the necessary knowledge and innovation to improve land use management through carbon mapping. Large amounts of data that require new technological tools such as cloud computing, data analysis, artificial intelligence, and machine learning for handling, processing, understanding and exploitation, together with new in situ information systems and the knowledge and innovation needed to improve land use management and the development of sustainable and healthy territories.

[1] UNDP (2019), “The Human Development Report”, UNDP, New York.

[2] Joseph B. Bak-Coleman, Mark Alfano, Wofram Barfuss, Carl T. Bergstrom, MIgue Centeno, Iain D. Couzin, Jonathan F. Donges, Mirta GAlesic, Andew S Gersick, Jennifer Jacquet, Albert B Kao, Rachel E. Moran, Pawel ROmamnczuk, Daniel I. Rubenstaein, Kaia J Tombak, Jay J Van BAvel and Elke U weber (2021), “Stewardship of global collective behavior”, PNAS, June 21, 2021.