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Novel entities and technologies: Environmental benefits and risks

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Novel technologies are continually being developed every day. Lessons from the past show that some resulted in unintended harm to the Earth’s system. The challenge for organizations working at the interface of the environment, technology, and society is, therefore, how to best harness the environmental benefits from new technologies while minimizing their potential adverse effects. Here, we identify some of the emerging technologies that the international development community needs to consider as it seeks to take advantage of new technologies to promote sustainable development. There are several innovations – such as blockchain, nanotechnology, synthetic biology, cellular agriculture, and gene editing techniques that could either positively or negatively affect the environment, food security, human health, and the transition to clean energy. Some of their benefits and potential environmental and socio-economic concerns are discussed. We further suggest actions that can be taken by organizations involved in sustainable development, such as the United Nations and other global and regional bodies, to exploit the benefits from novel technologies and mitigate their risks.

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