The program’s third cohort will provide $300,000 to artificial intelligence projects making a positive impact in ecosystems and human communities


(SAN FRANCISCO, CA | THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2023) -- AI’s relationship with our current climate emergency is complex. The technology produces a vast carbon footprint, and can be used to hasten the extraction and exploitation of natural resources. Yet AI also has the potential to drive environmental justice at scale.

The next cohort of the Mozilla Technology Fund will explore this relationship, awarding $300,000 USD in grants to open-source projects that leverage AI to make a positive impact in ecosystems and human communities.

Titled the “AI and Environmental Justice Awards,” these grants will support a variety of hardware and software projects, datasets, tools, and design concepts. Winning projects might use AI to conduct environmental impact assessments, combat climate disinformation, or empower local communities to manage their natural resources.

Awards range up to $50,000 each and include one year of Mozilla mentorship and support. Projects must be open source and consist of a working prototype, a community of contributors, and a user base. (Given the early stage of research in the AI and environmental justice space, for this round of funding, we are also willing to consider earlier-stage and more experimental projects, provided they will be built by a team with a past track record of success.)

Applications will be open from September 7 to October 5, 2023. Learn more about the criteria, and then apply, here.

Says Mehan Jayasuriya, Senior Program Officer at Mozilla: “The Mozilla Technology Fund launched in 2022, and has fueled research in fields like AI transparency and AI auditing. Now, we’re asking: Is there a role AI systems can play in addressing topics like environmental degradation, climate change, indigenous justice, food justice, and energy justice? Could AI technologies be a part of the solutions to these issues and not just a part of the problem?”

"We’re asking: Is there a role AI systems can play in addressing topics like environmental degradation, climate change, indigenous justice, food justice, and energy justice?"

Mehan Jayasuriya, Senior Program Officer

Jayasuriya continues: “We are particularly interested in projects which address the health, economic and social impacts of climate change on the Most Affected People and Areas (MAPA) — people of color, indigenous and traditional peoples, local communities, and specific ethnic-racial groups across the global south.”

Potential awardees might include:

Projects which expose or mitigate the climate impacts of AI systems: Research reveals the large footprint that AI systems have in terms of carbon emissions, water and electricity use, as well as the environmental impacts of extracting lithium, cobalt, rare earth elements and conflict minerals for use in batteries and hardware. Furthermore, machine learning and remote sensing are now being used by oil and mining companies to accelerate the speed at which natural resources can be extracted. We are excited to consider any projects which help illuminate or take steps to mitigate the environmental impacts of AI technologies.

Projects which utilize AI to conduct environmental impact assessments: Could AI technologies be used to catalog and analyze environmental degradation, land and water use, pollution and other environmental impacts? Could these systems be used to monitor the ways in which specific industries — agribusinesses, timber, mining and coal—are impacting the environment and climate? Are there insights which could be gleaned that could help affected communities advocate for a safer environment or more responsible use of resources?

Projects that prototype grassroots AI systems for ecological management: Are there AI systems which could be built and maintained by or in deep partnership with communities to help them better manage the use of their resources and the safety of their land, water, air and food systems? Could these systems help communities achieve goals like responsible forest and wildfire management, promoting biodiversity, or traceability of agricultural products? Are there new types of intelligent systems — non-human intelligence or “natural intelligence”—which could be leveraged in such systems?

Projects which combat climate disinformation: A great deal of climate disinformation (false and misleading content on climate, ecology, land, and territorial rights) flows through social media and other media channels. What AI-based tools might we provide citizens to help identify and combat the spread of climate information which is verifiably untrue? How might we push back against “greenwashing” and disingenuous “climate solutions” by providing relevant data and analysis?

Press contact: Kevin Zawacki | [email protected]