Canadian government hosts AI strategy roundtable, national climate plans ‘over-reliant’ on carbon removals: news in brief 

By on 06/06/2024 | Updated on 12/06/2024
A picture of a Government of Canada office
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Global Government Forum’s weekly news roundup of public service intelligence

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Canadian government hosts roundtable to inform AI strategy

Canadian Treasury Board President Anita Anand at a rally during the 2021 Canadian federal election.
Canadian Treasury Board president Anita Anand at a rally during the 2021 Canadian federal election. Photo: Joey Coleman reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0

The Government of Canada has set out the priorities that will shape the development of its artificial intelligence strategy after hosting a roundtable with industry experts.

Anita Anand, president of the Treasury Board, said that the government was developing an AI strategy focused on three key elements: building an AI-ready workforce and AI growth through innovation; enabling infrastructure and engagement; and implementing tools for responsible and effective AI adoption.

Speaking after the roundtable, Anand said AI has been used in the government for decades, but rapid advances in technology, including the growing use of generative AI, mean the Government of Canada must develop a plan to “remain a leader in its innovation”.

She added: “To do so, we must explore further practical possibilities associated with artificial intelligence to advance its adoption across the federal public sector for the benefit of our productivity and service delivery.”

Developing a strategy is key to this approach, Anand said, and the roundtable was the first of a series of engagements to help shape Canada’s first AI strategy for the federal public service.

Anand also stressed that the strategy would aim to accelerate responsible AI adoption by the government to enhance productivity, increase the government’s capacity for science and research, and deliver simpler and faster digital services for Canadians and businesses.

The strategy will provide “a human-centric approach to AI”, she added, focused on human rights, transparency, openness, and the protection of personal information.

Anand also highlighted that allies, like the US, the UK, and France, are making significant investments in their own AI ecosystems.

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Read the latest AI Monitor: AI ‘makes slow-moving governments vulnerable’, EU breaks new ground on AI legislation, and more

National climate plans ‘over-reliant’ on carbon removals, researchers warn 

Pollution rising into the sky from factories surrounded by green crop fields.
Photo by Johannes Plenio via Pexels

Countries risk over-relying on carbon dioxide removal techniques and avoiding the urgent need to make rapid deep cuts in emissions, according to new analysis. 

The research was carried out by Climate Action Tracker (CAT), a scientific initiative that tracks government climate action and measures it against Paris Agreement targets. 

CAT researchers said that an increasing number of governments disclose plans on the type and scope of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) within their borders to meet their longer-term targets – but that “detailed information across government plans remains scarce”.

The analysis finds that across 28 countries accountable for over 80% of global emissions, net zero commitments would only reduce emissions by around 84%, meaning there is a reliance on CDR techniques to close the gap.  

The countries’ plans aim for combined forest sinks of 4.7–5.7 GtCO2e, which would represent 12–15% of their 2019 emissions.

Eight of the countries also plan for engineered carbon dioxide removals, such as direct air carbon capture, of 0.7–1.3 GtCO2e.  

“With estimated costs for engineered CDR at a scale of up to US$400 per tonne CO2, governments would need to invest hundreds of billions a year for these removals,” the researchers said. 

They noted “tremendous uncertainties around reliability, costs, and permanence”, and recommend that reliance on CDR is kept as low as possible and used only after emissions have been reduced to the greatest extent possible.  

“Governments must urgently focus their attention on reducing emissions towards real zero, and transparently communicate and differentiate between conventional, engineered and novel CDR based on sea or land in target-setting and progress reporting,” said Frederic Hans from CAT consortium member NewClimate Institute. 

Read Global Government Forum’s Sustainability Monitor: How AI could accelerate net zero, Poland boosts climate education, and more

12-country digital transformation project kicks off 

Image: UNDP

A regional project to advance digital government in 12 countries across Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the Asia-Pacific regions has been launched in Kazakhstan.  

The ‘Capacity Development of Public Servants for Advancing Digital Transformation and Digital Governance’ project is funded by the Republic of Korea and will run until 2026.  

It will be implemented by the Astana Civil Service Hub, which is a Kazakhstan government initiative to promote effective civil service systems, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of the Interior and Safety, and its National Information Society Agency.

Participating countries are Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan Uzbekistan, Philippines, Laos and Mongolia. 

“Today, digital technologies are fundamentally changing the context and tools for development,” said Katarzyna Waviernia, UNDP resident representative in Kazakhstan.

She said the initiative aims to create “an enabling environment for digital transformation” by leveraging Korea’s successful experiences for the benefit of participating countries. It will include knowledge-sharing, research, workshops and study tours. 

The programme builds on a previous joint project, which concluded in 2023 and focused on the digitalisation of public services. The initiative reached 200 civil servants from the Caucasus and Central Asia regions. 

Alikhan Baimenov, chairman of the steering committee of the Astana Civil Service Hub, said: “In today’s interconnected world, digital governance is essential for optimising administrative processes, improving decision-making, and fostering innovation to address pressing issues.  

“This contributes to the creation of transparent and efficient public services, as well as increasing citizen engagement and trust.” 

Earlier this year, the Republic of Korea topped the OECD Digital Government Index for the second time. The Index assesses digital government maturity across multiple dimensions and considers each country’s strategic approach, policy levers, implementation and monitoring. 

Read Global Government Forum’s Digital and Data Monitor: The story of the UK Digital Academy, why good decisions follow good data, and more

Report sets out key principles for mission-driven government

Jungwoo Hong on Unsplash

A report has set out the key skills that governments need to implement a mission-focused approach.

A mission-led approach is one of the key principles of the US federal government, where every department or agency has a mission. The UK’s Labour Party has also set out plans for a mission-focused government if it wins the general election next month.

The UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP) set out six principles for mission-driven government in a paper published last week. These include that missions should set bold, audacious goals to provide a clear purpose and direction, and focus on the long-term. Missions should be used by government to galvanise action across sectors and across society, and the IIPP said they therefore require “active political management to build, grow and nurture a coalition of the willing”.

Missions should be based on a new approach to policy design, with investment made in boosting government capabilities in areas such as participation, design, digital and experimentation to make this possible.

Lastly, missions should direct public and private investment in line with the goals.

Writing specifically about the UK amid its general election, the authors state: “This year provides a rare moment for the UK: a potential change of national administration could trigger a radical shift in the way government is structured and delivered. The challenges the country faces have rarely been greater and more complex, and the prevailing model of government as it is currently constructed is not up to the task of tackling them.”

Its recommendations specifically call for improvement to civil service policy skills, highlighting that although the government has placed an increasing focus on civil service skills in areas like co-design, design research, operational delivery and deliberative participation, these capabilities are not widespread.

“As a result, those who develop policy in the UK often have a limited understanding of how people will experience it,” the report says, adding that a new government should build capabilities around participation, design, digital and experimentation.

Read Global Government Forum’s Management and Workforce Monitor: UK government to launch attraction strategy for recruitment, a reform idea from Romania, and more

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