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Governing the Coin: WEF Announces Global Consortium for Digital Currency Governance

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Following extensive consultation with the global community, the World Economic Forum announced today the Global Consortium for Digital Currency Governance. Digital currencies are often cited as a tool for financial inclusion, but this opportunity can be realized only when paired with good governance.

This is the first initiative to bring together leading companies, financial institutions, government representatives, technical experts, academics, international organizations, NGOs and members of the Forum’s communities on a global level. To tackle the challenge ahead, an international, multistakeholder approach with the public and private sectors working alongside civil society is needed.

This consortium will focus on solutions for a fragmented regulatory system. Efficiency, speed, inter-operability, inclusivity and transparency will be at the heart of this initiative. It will call for innovative regulatory approaches to achieve these goals and build trust. A set of guiding principles will be co-designed to support public and private actors exploring the opportunities that digital currencies present.

“Digital currency, a cross-cutting topic that requires input across sectors, functions, and geographies, is a key area of interest for the Forum,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum. “Building on our long history of public-private cooperation, we hope that hosting this consortium will catalyse the conversations necessary to inform a robust framework of governance for global digital currencies.”

“Any evaluation of digital currencies should consider both policy and business objectives, as well as the unique circumstances that face different economies around the world, in order to fully evaluate their risks and benefits,” said Lesetja Kganyago, Governor of the South African Reserve Bank. “Bringing together diverse perspectives through this consortium will allow for this holistic review. In order to achieve this, we need the public and private sector to collaborate.”

“While digital currencies offer wide possibilities, these have to be assessed against the fundamental objectives of economic advancement and shared prosperity,” said Patrick Ngugi Njoroge, Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya. “Global governance of the diverse initiatives provides greater assurance of this outcome.”

“Governance is the core pillar of any form of digital currency,” said Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England. “It is critical that any framework on digital currencies ensures security, efficiency and legitimacy of payments while ensuring fair and open competition. We welcome the World Economic Forum’s platform to help develop a robust governance framework for inclusion through digital currencies.”

“We are exploring the potential that properly-regulated digital currencies hold for cheaper and faster cross-border payments, financial inclusion, and rooting out illicit finance,” said Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Senior Minister and Chairman, Monetary Authority of Singapore. “This dialogue between public and private sector players is now essential, so we find the right roles for each in realizing this potential.”

“We are watching closely as digital currencies increasingly become an area of focus around the world,” said Eric Parrado, Chief Economist, Inter-American Development Bank. “They may unlock new opportunities for efficiency and inclusion, but this can only happen with the appropriate infrastructure and guardrails.”

“The release of digital currencies will have far-reaching implications, from domestic financial stability to international trade,” said Rania A. Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation, Egypt. “As such, it is imperative that efforts to regulate digital currencies are well-informed, collaborative, and global in nature.”

“Building on our collaboration around the World Economic Forum’s Central Bank Digital Currency Toolkit, we are eager to continue exploring the pillars of well-informed approaches to digital currency through this consortium,” said Rasheed Al Maraj, Governor of the Central Bank of Bahrain.

“Having witnessed firsthand technology leapfrog East and West African financial markets forward over the last decade, we are excited that this initiative will bring leaders from around the world to share best practices and will work on truly global policy recommendations,” said Elizabeth Rossiello, Chief Executive Officer of AZA Finance.

“We welcome the dialogue the World Economic Forum is facilitating about digital currencies,” said David Marcus, Head of Calibra, Facebook, Libra Board Member. “We agree that good regulation is important for the success and safe adoption of digital currency platforms and are looking forward to continue to engage in this constructive conversation.”

“Digital currencies have the potential to improve access to financial markets, but proper oversight and governance are required,” said Rob Heyvaert, Founder and Managing Partner of Motive Partners. “The World Economic Forum is uniquely placed to bring together the private and public sectors to discuss these issues and tackle the challenges ahead.”

“Digital currencies are a tremendous opportunity to make the financial system more accessible and fair,” said Neha Narula, Director, Digital Currency Initiative, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Creating an inclusive, integrated global digital currency system requires dialogue across stakeholders ranging from finance ministers to open source developers, and the World Economic Forum is in an ideal position to facilitate this important conversation.

“Trust is needed in this space now more than ever,” said Joseph Thompson, Chief Executive Officer of AID:Tech. “Creating new economic opportunities and a paradigm shift in how technology is used can benefit all societies. What we need now is multistakeholder cooperation that is anchored in principles of social justice.”

“It’s rare that such an important global organization takes into consideration the context of developing countries in the application of Fourth Industrial Revolution technology to achieve the SDGs,” said Maria Antonia Arroyo, Principal of the Ignite Impact Fund. “Stablecoin is an important development that, if properly implemented and responsible to the concerns of civil society, will be effective at universal financial inclusion.”

“New technologies, like blockchain, have helped catalyze a revolution in the mechanics of money,” said Joseph Lubin, Founder of ConsenSys. “We applaud the efforts by the WEF in actively researching digital currencies, including those that are blockchain-based, as a means to foster innovation but also ensure that central banks can maintain their role as stewards of the economy. The future of money is digital and central banks and the public sector have a crucial part to play in ensuring that this future is sustainable, inclusive and positive for society.”

This initiative builds on work done by the Forum over the past year, convening a global community of central banks to co-design a policy framework for the adoption of digital currencies. The Forum’s Global Technology Governance Summit will take place in San Francisco from 21-22 April. Governance of digital currency will be a core pillar.

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How shipping can contribute to a more sustainable future

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This year’s theme – ‘New technologies for greener shipping’ – promotes innovation and solutions that support a transition in the sector. Maritime transport represents more than 80 per cent of global trade, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in his message for the Day.

Meanwhile, the war in Ukraine –and the Black Sea Grain Initiative – have highlighted the vital role shipping plays in feeding the world.

Curb shipping emissions

“As shipping continues to connect humanity, it must play an essential part in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and building a fair and prosperous future for people and planet,” he said.

The UN chief stressed that the maritime sector “must accelerate its voyage to decarbonization.” Emissions from shipping are projected to grow considerably unless there is concerted global action, he warned.

“Governments and private companies need to work together to harness innovative technologies such as digitalization and automation and foster a just transition that includes developing countries and promotes renewable energy and alternative fuels,” he said.

“The vessels to be deployed in this decade will determine whether the shipping sector achieves net zero emissions by 2050. Smarter and greener zero emission ships must become the default choice and commercially available for all by 2030.”

Concern for seafarers

The celebrations on World Maritime Day provide a platform to showcase inclusive maritime innovation, research and development, and the demonstration and deployment of new technologies.

This year’s theme opens up a larger conversation about where shipping is headed, and how digitalization and automation can support the sector, said Kitack Lim, Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

“But technological solutions for cleaner, safer and more sustainable shipping must also benefit people,” he stressed. “In this regard, the impact on seafarers and other marine personnel, including the need for training, must be considered.”

The theme also entails support for developing nations, particularly small island developing states (SIDS) and least developed countries (LDCs).

Saving lives at sea

In related developments, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is using the Day to underscore the importance of marine meteorology to ensure safety at sea.

WMO has released a new publication and video showcasing how it works with partners, including national meteorological services and IMO, in providing forecasts and early warnings to save lives.

The growing impacts of climate change and more extreme weather are making marine meteorological services more critical than ever before, according to the UN agency.

“This has been underlined yet again by a recent succession of tropical cyclones in the Atlantic and Northwest Pacific, which have led to hazardous shipping conditions. Forecasts and warnings are essential to protect vessels, their cargo and sailors,” it said.

WMO is committed to the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea, known as the SOLAS convention, through the broadcast of meteorological maritime safety information as part of the IMO Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS).

The SOLAS convention is generally regarded as the most important of all international treaties concerning the safety of merchant ships.

It was first adopted in 1914, in response to the Titanic disaster.

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Battery-free smart devices to harvest ambient energy for IoT

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By  MICHAEL ALLEN

Tiny internet-connected electronic devices are becoming ubiquitous. The so-called Internet of Things (IoT) allows our smart gadgets in the home and wearable technologies like our smart watches to communicate and operate together. IoT devices are increasingly used across all sorts of industries to drive interconnectivity and smart automation as part of the ‘fourth industrial revolution’.

The fourth industrial revolution builds on already widespread digital technology such as connected devices, artificial intelligence, robotics and 3D printing. It is expected to be a significant factor in revolutionising society, the economy and culture.

These small, autonomous, interconnected and often wireless devices are already playing a key role in our everyday lives by helping to make us more resource and energy-efficient, organised, safe, secure and healthy.

There is a key challenge, however – how to power these tiny devices. The obvious answer is “batteries”. But it is not quite that simple.

Small devices

Many of these devices are too small to use a long-life battery and they are located in remote or hard-to-access locations – for instance in the middle of the ocean tracking a shipping container or at the top of a grain silo, monitoring levels of cereal. These types of locations make servicing some IoT devices extremely challenging and commercially and logistically infeasible.

Mike Hayes, head of ICT for energy efficiency at the Tyndall National Institute in Ireland, summarises the marketplace. ‘It’s projected that we are going to have one trillion sensors in the world by 2025,’ he said, ‘That is one thousand billion sensors.’

That number is not as crazy as it first seems, according to Hayes, who is the coordinator of the Horizon-funded EnABLES project (European Infrastructure Powering the Internet of Things).

If you think about the sensors in the technology someone might carry on their person or have in their car, home, office plus the sensors embedded in the infrastructure around them such as roads and railways, you can see where that number comes from, he explained.

‘In the trillion IoT sensor world predicted for 2025, we are going to be throwing over 100 million batteries everyday into landfills unless we significantly extend battery life,’ Hayes said.

Battery life

Landfill is not the only environmental concern. We also need to consider where all the material to make the batteries is going to come from. The EnABLES project is calling on the EU and industry leaders to think about battery life from the outset when designing IoT devices to ensure that batteries are not limiting the lifespan of devices.

‘We don’t need the device to last forever,’ said Hayes. ‘The trick is that you need to outlive the application that you’re serving. For example, if you want to monitor a piece of industrial equipment, you probably want it to last for five to 10 years. And in some cases, if you do a regular service every three years anyway, once the battery lasts more than three or four years that’s probably good enough.’

Although many devices have an operational life of more than 10 years, the battery life of wireless sensors is typically only one to two years.

The first step to longer battery life is increasing the energy supplied by batteries. Also, reducing the power consumption of devices will prolong the battery. But EnABLES is going even further.

The project brings together 11 leading European research institutes. With other stakeholders, EnABLES is working to develop innovative ways to harvest tiny ambient energies such as light, heat and vibration.

Harvesting such energies will further extend battery life. The goal is to create self-charging batteries that last longer or ultimately run autonomously.

Energy harvesters

Ambient energy harvesters, such as a small vibrational harvester or indoor solar panel, that produce low amounts of power (in the milliwatt range) could significantly extend the battery life of many devices, according to Hayes. These include everyday items like watches, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, hearing aids, carbon dioxide detectors, and temperature, light and humidity sensors.

EnABLES is also designing the other key technologies needed for tiny IoT devices. Not content with improving energy efficiency, the project is also trying to develop a framework and standardised and interoperable technologies for these devices.

One of the key challenges with autonomously powered IoT tools is power management. The energy source may be intermittent and at very low levels (microwatts), and different methods of harvesting supply different forms of power that require different techniques to convert to electricity.

Steady trickle

Huw Davies, is chief executive officer of Trameto, a company which is developing power management for piezo electric applications. He points out that energy from photovoltaic devices tends to come in a steady trickle, while that from piezoelectric devices, which convert ambient energy from movements (vibrations) into electrical energy, generally comes in bursts.

‘You need a way of storing that energy locally in a store before it is delivered into a load, so you need to have ways of managing that,’ Davies said.

He is the project coordinator of the Horizon-funded HarvestAll project, which has developed an energy management system for ambient energy dubbed OptiJoule.

OptiJoule works with piezoelectric materials, photovoltaics and thermal electric generators. It can function with any of these sources on their own, or with multiple energy harvesting sources at the same time.

The goal is to enable autonomous sensors to be self-sustaining. In principle, it’s quite simple. ‘What we are talking about is ultra-low powered sensors taking some digital measurement,’ said Davies. ‘Temperature, humidity, pressure, whatever it is, with the data from that being delivered into the internet.’

Integrated circuits

The HarvestAll energy management integrated circuit device adjusts to match the different energy harvesters. It takes the different and intermittent energy created by these harvesters and stores it, for instance in a battery or capacitor, and then manages the delivery of a steady output of energy to the sensor.

Similarly to the EnABLES project, the idea is to create standardised technology that will enable the rapid development of long battery life/autonomous IoT devices in Europe and the world.

Davies said that the energy management circuit works completely autonomously and automatically. It is designed so that it can just be plugged into an energy harvester, or combination of harvesters, and a sensor. As a replacement for the battery it has a significant advantage, according to Davies, because ‘It will just work.’

The research in this article was funded by the EU. This article was originally published in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation Magazine. 

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Crypto Sustainability Coalition to Investigate Potential of Web3 Technologies in Fighting Climate Change

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The World Economic Forum launched the Crypto Sustainability Coalition, which will investigate how web3 and blockchain tools can be leveraged to achieve positive climate action.

Web3, which includes technologies like blockchains, cryptocurrencies, and NFTs, has become a catch-all term for the vision of a new, better internet. Members of the coalition will explore the potential positive impacts these technologies can bring to environmental and social agendas.

The coalition launch is timely as there is an urgent need to support the decarbonization of cryptocurrency and ensuring the industry is part of the climate solution. Furthermore, there needs to be regulatory clarity that promotes web3 innovation, protects consumers, and improves financial inclusion.

“I am excited about the work we are expecting from the Crypto Sustainability Coalition. An important and unique aspect of web3 is that it uses technology to support and reward direct community engagement and action. This means we can coordinate the work of many individuals directly with one another, enabling collective action without centralized control – a powerful accelerator for grass roots action,” said Brynly Llyr, Head of Blockchain and Digital Assets, World Economic Forum.

The Crypto Sustainability Coalition is a public-private initiative hosted by the World Economic Forum and comprises 30 partners. It is convening working groups to tackle three specific issues:

  • Energy usage – this working group will analyse the crypto industry’s consumption of energy and materials to build a clearer picture of its impacts on climate and nature.
  • Web3’s potential for climate action – this working group will investigate ways in which web3 innovations could tackle challenges facing the low-carbon transition at the pace required to hit the Paris Agreement’s targets. For example, the decentralized nature of crypto-mining and its ability to operate at off-peak times may provide a new business model for utilities and investors looking to develop renewable energy microgrids.
  • “On-chain” carbon credits – members of the coalition believe blockchain-based carbon credits could address current flaws in global carbon markets, including: the lack of transparency around carbon offsets for either providers or buyers; the failure of markets to remove carbon emissions at the scale and pace required; and the inability of millions of the world’s smallholder farmers, forest stewards and Indigenous communities to participate in or benefit from carbon credit markets.

The Crypto Sustainability Coalition will investigate, collate and highlight industry standards, best practices and examples of tangible action that attest to how web3 technologies can support communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The coalition’s wider aim is to foster a broad education campaign on what web3’s potential and capacity look like, to better inform governments on how they regulate these technologies and incentivize investment and research into their development.

The coalition’s partners include Accenture, Avalanche, Avatree, CC Token, Circle, Climate Collective, Crypto Council for Innovation, Emerge, Energy Web Foundation, eToro, EY, Flowcarbon, Heifer International, KlimaDAO, Lukka, NEAR Foundation, Nori, PlanetWatch, Plastiks, Rainforest Partnership, Recykal, ReSeed, Ripple, Solana, Stellar Development Foundation, STEWARD, Sustainable Bitcoin Standard, The Global Brain, Toucan Protocol, University of Lisbon, and Zero Labs.

The new coalition is part of the Crypto Impact and Sustainability Accelerator (CISA), a grant-funded initiative launched by the Forum in January 2022 with a mission to encourage a greater understanding of the environmental, social and governance (ESG) impacts of crypto technologies.

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