AI for Sustainability – A Human-Centric Approach to Global Challenges

That Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be used as a tool for environmental and climate action is today evident. With a plethora of new AI policies and strategies, research, development and investments in the a green transition and the circular economy introduced worldwide, we are seeing the real potential of transformative technologies like AI for sustainable development goals. At the same time we are also increasingly understanding the environmental impact of AI in and by itself. There is an urgent need for a global values-based conversation on environmentally sound AI for sustainability.

At the High-Level Conference on AI: From Ambition to Actionorganised jointly by the Slovenian Presidency of the European Council and the European Commission in September 2021 the conversation was started and it will continue at a workshop on AI for sustainability at Expo Dubai in the framework of the event “European AI Excellence and Trust in the world”  to be held on 16 of March 2022.

You can register to attend the event online here.

AI for Sustainable Development Goals and the Green Deal

The global sustainable development political agenda is based on the political intention and principles created at the Human Environment Conference taking place in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1972. This was the first global conference to recognise our human impact on the ”environment” and the urgency of global political attention and coordination. As follows, the idea of ”environmentally sound technologies” was developed with an emphasis on the reduction of environmental pollution and sustainable resource use “by design” and during implementation and adoption: ”Environmentally sound technologies in the context of pollution are "process and product technologies" that generate low or no waste, for the prevention of pollution. They also cover "end of the pipe" technologies for treatment of pollution after it has been generated.”

The global sustainable development agenda has particularly in recent years been evolving alongside a European “Trustworthy AI” policy agenda with a growing momentum in geo-politics. Thus, the European Green Deal launched in 2019 recognised the transformative power of AI to contribute to the accomplishment of the green transition. AI can help this transition through, for example, a more efficient use of scarce resources, prediction and management of environmental impacts, optimisation of production processes, and policy foresight ideas. At the same time, the Green Deal stresses that ”sustainability ” must be a core point of departure for the development of not only AI technologies, but a digitalized society in general.

International Outreach Initiative for Human-Centric AI

We need a global value-based conversation to address the opportunities as well as implications of AI for sustainability and the green transition.  The European Commission’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI) and the Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT) has launched the The international outreach for human-centric artificial intelligence initiative ( With various research and tech diplomacy activities we help with promoting the EU’s vision on sustainable and trustworthy AI in the world.

Artificial Intelligence for Sustainability

We started the conversation at the High-Level Conference on AI: From Ambition to Action last September on AI for Green with world renowned experts.

See the debate here

At the conference we also invited Canadian Assistant Professor and CIFAR AI Chair David Rolnick to introduce the topic with a video address. He made an excellent outline of the many ways that AI can be used when tackling global climate change. Importantly also stressing the need for a more holistic approach that does not consider AI as the “silver bullet”, but rather one component of a more complex puzzle.

See David Rolnick’s talk here

In continuation of this first dive into the topic, we will now on the 16th of March 2022 have a second workshop on AI for sustainability at Expo Dubai in the framework of the event “European AI Excellence and Trust around the world”. This workshop I, as the AI Ethics expert and Research lead of, I have the honour of moderating. Together with a group of experts – Dr. Aimee van Wynsberghe, Professor in Applied Ethics of AI at the University of Bonn, Ms. Emanuela Girardi, Founder of Pop AI, Dr. Ricardo Vinuesa Motilva, Associate Professor at KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Anna Felländer, Founder of anch.AI  - as well as three concrete European projects working on AI contributing to environmental sustainability  - AI4Cities, Cybele, and I-NERGY – I will be exploring the role of AI in the green transition. Among others seeking answers to questions regarding the tangible benefits of concrete AI projects for the environment and challenges as well as the environmental costs of the technologies. Importantly we aim at outlining the initial contours of the unique value-added of a European approach to AI for sustainability.

All of this we plan to make an even deeper dive into the coming months with further studies of the many themes and issues that a European human-centric approach to AI for sustainability on a global scale present.

Parallel to this workshop we will also hold another workshop on AI and Health moderated by team leader Gianluca Misuraca. Stay tuned for updates on this.






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