Why legal identity is crucial to tackling the climate crisis

Digitalization offers a pathway to bridging the global identity gap

May 15, 2024
ID graphic
Graphic: Shutterstock

Legal identity serves as a fundamental gateway to accessing both public and private services. However, a staggering 850 million people worldwide lack the means to establish their identity. Embracing digitalization offers a pathway to bridging this global identity gap, with digital legal identity serving as a cornerstone of digital public infrastructure, fostering interoperability among diverse systems.

At the core of evidence-based policymaking lies the invaluable data sourced from foundational registries like civil and national ID databases. However, the integrity of this data hinges upon robust protection measures for privacy and data security. The establishment of digital versions of these foundational registries, coupled with seamless interoperability, enables the instant generation of critical data essential for evidence-driven policymaking and ensuring inclusion and respect for human rights. Sectors like environment, energy, and social security stand to benefit significantly from such data, supporting robust risk management strategies in the face of disasters and climate crisis. By utilizing this data, it can improve access to information for citizens regarding disaster and emergency response, facilitating targeted communication tailored to specific communities.

Amidst the escalating risks of climate-induced disasters, targeted interventions informed by data can yield multiple benefits. These interventions enhance predictive capabilities, bolster preparedness efforts, and streamline response mechanisms to mitigate the uncertainties associated with climate-related risks. Furthermore, leveraging data can significantly contribute to emission reduction initiatives, thereby aiding in climate mitigation endeavors.

During disasters, digital identity plays a crucial role in tracking impacts, facilitating relief efforts, and optimizing energy responses. It helps allocate energy resources efficiently, ensures essential services are maintained, and supports emergency response teams with access to vital infrastructure. Additionally, by identifying displaced populations and prioritizing assistance to vulnerable individuals, digital identity aids in coordinating various efforts across different cultural and geographical contexts.

There are five compelling reasons why data derived from Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) and national ID systems are indispensable tools in confronting the climate and energy crisis.

1. Identifying the displaced 

Digital legal identities offer a unique means of tracking population movements, facilitating swift access to essential information for each human being. To mitigate data protection and privacy risks, the stored digital ID information is layered and access restricted which ensures that only authorized personnel can swiftly access relevant data for a limited duration specified by law. This data includes valuable health and income profiles, which are crucial for providing prompt support to individuals displaced by disasters. Such information empowers local and national governments to prioritize and mobilize support according to various demographic factors, like age groups, health profiles, education levels, and linguistic abilities, ensuring a more targeted response. 

Additionally, storing basic information, including emergency contacts, within digital legal IDs ensures quick and authorized access, enhancing the efficiency of support systems.

2. Using digital ID for registration

Several countries are adopting digital IDs to register disaster impacts, aiding in the comprehensive understanding of these events. With support from UNDP, countries are establishing tracking systems to collect data from various agencies, including environment, health, public works, transport, agriculture, statistics, and others at national, provincial, and sub-national levels. 

Digital legal IDs for citizens enable the capture of disaggregated data by age, gender, disability, and income, offering insights into the diverse impacts of disasters on different groups. This detailed data enhances research, policy formulation, and the distribution of targeted social protection support in the aftermath of adverse events.

3. Disaster preparedness and emergency management

Digital legal IDs play a pivotal role in disaster preparedness, particularly within critical infrastructure sectors such as energy. These IDs store valuable personal information, including residence and medical conditions, which can be crucial during emergencies. 

Digital IDs aid in identifying vulnerable populations and critical infrastructure, thereby bolstering resilience and guaranteeing a dependable energy supply during adverse events like extreme weather, seismic activity, wildfires, or power grid failures. Utility providers and emergency services can utilize this personal data during disasters to precisely locate individuals in need of special assistance, including those reliant on medical equipment powered by electricity or facing mobility challenges. Targeted support ensures that the most vulnerable members of the community receive prompt assistance and access to necessary energy resources.

Moreover, digital legal IDs can assist in allocating resources by providing real-time data on the status of energy infrastructure and the needs of affected areas. This allows for more efficient deployment of generators, fuel, and repair teams, reducing downtime and improving overall disaster recovery efforts.

4. Energy system sustainability and resilience 

Leveraging digital legal ID data to track energy consumption, inspire behaviour change, and enhance sustainability measures can mitigate climate-related disasters. 

Governments can use digital IDs to facilitate renewable energy incentives in disaster-prone regions, encouraging the adoption of clean energy technologies. Additionally, digital IDs strengthen the operationalization of renewable energy microgrids by gaining valuable insights to optimize energy distribution and load balancing, providing reliable energy sources during disasters. 

Digital IDs also aid in allocating resources by identifying critical infrastructure and essential services, preventing overloads and blackouts. In essence, digital legal ID data empowers the energy sector to proactively address sustainability challenges and bolster resilience, contributing to more reliable and sustainable energy systems that can withstand the impact of disasters.

5. Empowering communities 

Active community involvement is crucial for addressing energy access, security, and the climate crisis. Digital legal IDs revolutionize community participation in the energy sector by providing secure access to energy resources and enabling energy trading within community microgrids. 

By offering rewards or subsidies directly to digital wallets, individuals are encouraged to invest in renewable energy, leading to broader adoption and increased participation in sustainable energy initiatives. This approach not only stimulates the transition to cleaner energy but also empowers citizens to actively engage in shaping the energy landscape of their communities. This also enhances transparency, trust, and resilience during climate-related emergencies.

As we embrace the boundless potential of digitalization, let's embark on a journey to construct a world where each person not only survives but thrives in the face of climate adversity. This is the time to seize the moment to forge a future where every individual is empowered with the basic tools such as digital legal Ids to navigate the dire consequences of climate change with resilience and resolve.