European Parliament Public Hearing

On January 27, 2021, I had the pleasure and honor to join the European Parliament’s AIDA Committee in a discussion on Artificial Intelligence and its role in delivering on the EU’s Green Deal. The recording of the 3h hearing is available on the EP’s multimedia platform. My input during the second panel focused on the environmental impact of digital and web technologies and I argued that we need to make transparent reporting on all three scopes of the Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHG) Protocol mandatory for the digital sector. Otherwise, we’ll be hard pressed to understand whether or not these technologies are indeed creating a net-positive value for the environment, let alone put ourselves to properly mitigate their impact.

Mozilla’s Climate Commitments

It was a big moment when I got to announce Mozilla’s Climate Commitments. It’s a milestone for Mozilla as an organisation and certainly everyone on the sustainability team. We are incredibly proud to finally be able to share this.

You can read more about our pledge on the Mozilla blog, in short:

1. Mozilla is firmly committed to being carbon-neutral.
2. Mozilla will significantly reduce its GHG footprint year over year aligning to, and aiming to exceed, the net zero emissions commitment of the Paris Climate Agreement.
3. Mozilla commits to leading openly by sharing materials, tools, and methodologies.
4. Mozilla will explore approaches to develop, design, and improve products from a sustainability perspective, including seeking collaborations to further amplify impact.

Since the most effective climate mitigation strategy is avoiding emissions, the focus of our work in 2021 will be to set reduction targets and develop implementation plans with all parts of the organisation. Stay tuned for more.

The 2020 rollercoaster: between exhaustion and success

The good thing about 2020? It is almost over.

It has been difficult and disruptive and I can’t count the times where I was just so exhausted, tired, frustrated, sad, angry, exasperated — at the world, at isolation, lockdown, the emotional drain, anything and everything.

Yet, as I wrote a brief recap for my colleagues at Mozilla to reflect on all the things we achieved in terms of sustainability, I suddenly had to sit back and realise that though I may be emotionally and mentally exhausted, I am also incredibly proud of what we’ve been able to pull off. And not just because of 2020. These achievements would be successes in any circumstance.

Full post on Medium.

Release: Mozilla’s Greenhouse Gas emissions baseline

It was a proud moment indeed:

After months and months of work with contributions from over 50 data owners working with data engineering, legal and trust, marketing as well as many more individuals, we finally released Mozilla’s greenhouse gas emissions baseline report. It’s been quite the learning journey, thank you to everyone involved, including those that keep cheering me up when things get tough!

I am excited that we get to be this transparent and open about what we learn and I am very much looking forward to building on these findings and working out the details for Mozilla’s reduction and mitigation strategy.

Announcement and report on the Mozilla blog.

For a better climate online: MozFest Sustainability Space

Hope, optimism, positivity, courage, collaboration. If you’re concerned about the climate crisis and the lack of dedicated action across the world, then chances are these are not the first terms that currently come to mind. It’s time to change that.

The next iteration of the Mozilla Festival, virtual for the first time, promises to provide a platform for just that. Curating a dedicated Sustainability Space, we aim to bring communities together to spark hope in tackling the climate crisis jointly.

The Call for Proposals opens today, and I can’t wait to hear your ideas!

Whether you’re thinking about green tech, sustainable making, or carbon budgets; whether you want to pitch ideas on the right to repair, smart cities, or tiny AI; or whether you want to explore sustainable futures through art, music, or writing — we want to include it all.

We invite everyone, activists, educators, farmers, makers, engineers, artists, policy-makers, designers and all who care about the environment and our online world to share their knowledge and experiences.

A virtual MozFest has an additional advantage: No jetlag, no need to physically cross borders; more space to uplift the voices that everyone should hear.

One element that I’d love to see coming out of MozFest:

A compilation of the most pressing and insightful stories from all parts of the world. As Pacific islands and East Asia wrap up their conversations for the day, what were the highlights of these sessions, what should everyone be aware of? Moving along sessions from Asia and the Middle East, to Europe and Africa, across the Atlantic and further to North and South America – what did we learn from people in each of these regions, which ideas, solutions, and opportunities can we spin further?

If you’re interested in making that happen, help spread the word and pitch your ideas, the CfP is open until November 23. And if you’re on the fence, there are some helpful resources for (potential) facilitators, too.

Let’s organise, share experiences, and put these pieces together for a sustainable future. 

My personal carbon footprint

It’s not a pretty number: 255t.

That’s the carbon budget I used up during my lifespan so far. I used the CO2 calculator of the German Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt) to estimate my annual footprint, which currently amounts to 3,54t.

In comparison to the average German citizen (11,6t CO2e), my carbon footprint is comparatively small and yet not anywhere near where it needs to be: below 1t per person annually, if we want any chance to stay within the boundaries of global warming below 1.5°C.

Here is how I got to my overall, lifetime estimate.

I started by calculating my current annual emissions (pictured above). I have a green energy contract (“Ökostrom”) for my electricity as well as my heating and have been on such a renewable plan for the past 6 years. Before that, I procured green energy but, as far as I can recollect and/or reconstruct, the heating ran on district heating (“Fernwärme”). I used the same calculator to estimate the additional CO2 for heating during those years (adding 0,29t annually).

I never owned a car and tend to get around either by public transport or bike, so those estimates are fairly similar over the years and one of the factors where the average German citizen with their car-dependent culture ends up on a way higher emissions spectrum.

Another big factor in those calculations are dietary preferences. I’ve been on a vegetarian diet for more than 20 years, favouring regional, seasonal, and organic products whenever possible, which according to the calculator saves around 0,37t per year. Multiplying these by my childhood years before I opted to be vegetarian, I added those to my overall carbon footprint as well.

In addition, in my estimated annual carbon footprint I did not account for an average number of flights per year but instead calculated all my flights separately. Going back through old records, calendars and trip memorabilia, I ended up with an excel sheet of 348 flights. I’ll note that some 90% of these were business trips and I can tell you that going through my records in this strange, pandemic-ridden year of 2020 where I haven’t left the country since January made this all the more cringe-worthy. I am not planning to go back to such an intense travel schedule, ever.

My overall flight impact amounts to 118,19 mt CO2e.
Sidenote: t for tonnes and mt for metric tons are primarily regional differences, with mt favoured in the U.S.

If you’re curious how to calculate this, you can find the required steps, including the package for airport codes and calculating the distances between airports here:
Using “R”, you convert the list of flights from kilometres to miles, multiply them by 0.24 to convert to pounds of carbon dioxide, then by a factor of 1.891 for airborne emissions and run that against your sheet. If you’re wondering why the factor for flight emissions is bigger than 1, that’s because CO2 emitted higher up in the earth’s atmosphere has a greater warming potential, referred to as “radiative forcing”.

Adding flights, annual estimate multiplied by my age and accounting for differences in consumption, energy and heating adjustments, I ended up with approximately 255t.

Using as a point of orientation to estimate the price for offsetting all my already accrued emissions, well aware that avoiding and reducing is highly preferable but hardly implementable post the fact, I would have to invest around 5.865 Euro to offset my personal emissions — for my entire lifespan. It’s both a lot for a one-off donation and not much at all, given the overall impact and need for mitigating the climate crisis.

I decided to start with a 750€ investment (i.e. 32,61t CO2) and will be looking into other high potential and scalable projects going forward to balance out the emissions I haven’t been able to avoid to date. But even more importantly, these calculations make it abundantly clear to me that we need to more vocally call on governments to adopt necessary legislation and on business to live up to their responsibilities.

This transformation isn’t optional, the climate crisis affects us all — and “paying” to continue spending (i.e. emitting) is not sustainable. We need an incentive structure that actually allows us to avoid and reduce in a much more consistent and meaningful manner than is currently possible.

Demo: Social VR and its potential

I’ve always loved the potential of Mozilla Hubs and certainly enjoyed exploring social VR spaces as an alternative to meeting people, not least during the pandemic. Now, I finally got the opportunity to collaborate on a project.

We’ve transformed and art project, the “Museum of the Fossilized Internet” into a 3D model that can be visited directly through the browser. I had so much filming this demo tour in VR with Dan Fernie-Harper, Liv Erickson, Elgin-Skye McLaren and Michelle Thorne:

And if you too are excited about the potential of social VR spaces, for example as an alternative to in-person conferences, you should totally read up on the Mozilla Hubs Cloud offering that the team recently launched:

Blog: Virtual Tours of the Museum of the Fossilized Internet

In March 2020, Michelle Thorne and I announced office tours of the Museum of the Fossilized Internet as part of our new Sustainability programme. Then the pandemic hit, and we teamed up with the Mozilla Mixed Reality team to make it more accessible while also demonstrating the capabilities of social VR with Hubs.

We now welcome visitors to explore the museum at home through their browsers.

Read more on the Mozilla Blog and check our Demo Tour on YouTube.

Blog: Mozilla’s journey to environmental sustainability

You can read the full post including process, strategic goals, and the four principles we’ve set for engaging on this issue on the Mozilla Blog:

All I can say: It feels really good to finally be able to share a first insight into my new role, the challenges and opportunities that come with it. It won’t be an easy ride but I look forward to embarking on it!

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