The need to reduce carbon emissions and slow down global warming has never been higher on the agenda of the world’s governments than it is now. Country after country has announced net zero targets and mapped out national adaptation plans (NAPs), supporting the global response to the threat of climate change.
However, no single entity or country can achieve a net zero future alone. It involves developing solutions (technological, social, economic) and getting them adopted in spirit. This requires an interdisciplinary approach, drawing on the knowledge, expertise, and skills of multiple domains. Further, collaboration among governments, the private sector, international organizations, academia, non-government players, and others is absolutely foundational to bringing about transformational climate action and implementing change at scale.
With a mission to contribute meaningfully to society, the global economy, and the planet’s sustainability, the World Geospatial Industry Council (WGIC) has stressed the significance of Earth observations and geospatial solutions in climate action. With a firm belief in the power of collaboration in co-creating the future, WGIC partnered with the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and Climate TRACE and released the report – GHG monitoring from space: A mapping of capabilities across public, private and hybrid missions. This report was presented at the Conference of the Parties (COP 26) in 2021 to benefit all climate action stakeholders.
Prince Talal International Prize for Human Development
In a first for the geospatial industry, through the nomination from a key partner, ConnectAID, this global collaborative work won the 2021 Prince Talal International Prize for Human Development, instituted by the Arab Gulf Programme for Development (AGFUND). The Prize stimulates and encourages innovation and creativity in human development. WGIC’s work stood out among the 146 nominated projects, earning prize money of US$ 200,000 to further its research and advocacy work in the area.
On winning the award, Ken Mooyman, President of WGIC, said, “WGIC’s members worldwide are increasingly leveraging their capabilities for climate action and supporting the creation of a sustainable planet. This recognition is very apt and timely and will help WGIC create the essential knowledge around the importance of Earth observations and geospatial technologies for climate action.”
Geospatial for Climate Action in Africa
Advancing its commitment to climate action, WGIC has initiated the second phase of the project to facilitate the research and documentation of the value of geospatial technologies for climate action in Africa, and what the commercial geospatial sector can offer. The project intends to document the status of the adoption of geospatial technologies in Africa and identify the gaps. It aims to provide insight into the available commercial resources of data, tools, services, and solutions to help support African countries actively implementing their national adaptation plans (NAPs).
Launching the research project at the recently concluded 27th Session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP27) in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Barbara Ryan, Executive Director, WGIC, stressed the role of the private geospatial sector and social enterprises in advancing climate action.
Emphasizing that time is running out, Barbara said, “The time for climate action is now. We need to move more quickly and collaboratively. While governments continue to invest, it is essential that the private sector is acknowledged for its capabilities. We need governments to implement policies that enable stronger public private partnerships, and easier access to private sector data, technology, and tools. Only organizations such as UNFCCC and all the allied parties can affect that kind of change.”
On WGIC’s next steps on climate action, Barbara said, “The Prince Talal Prize reinforces our commitment to collaborative climate action. The prize money will help us discover all the private sector assets, particularly in Africa, a data-poor continent. We will work with African stakeholders, including national governments, financial institutions, development organizations, and not-for-profit organizations, to build awareness about the value of geospatial technologies in climate action.”
Participating at the Side Event at COP 27, GHGSat, which operates satellites for monitoring greenhouse gas emissions from industrial facilities around the world, informed the audience that GHGSat is committed to providing global transparency for greenhouse gas emissions. The company is making its data available to operators, governments, and climate action stakeholders.
Speaking on the occasion, Stephane Germain, President of GHGSat, announced, “We are upgrading our free service (spectra-basic.ghgsat.com) and increasing access to our data via a new service called SPECTRA Premium. We will continue to contribute our data and efforts to track methane on a global scale, such as the UNEP’s International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO).”
Highlighting the need to map regions that have not been documented so far, Robert Hoddenbach, Global Director – Land Asset Integrity at Fugro said, “When it concerns our understanding of the impact of, and adaptation to, climate change, there is still a lot of terra incognita. We understand the global impact trends with increasingly-improved satellite data, as captured under the ‘Essential Climate Variables’ in the IPPC report. But we need to augment this with geospatial knowledge focused on the local impact and support localized response and adaptation. Using digital twins as a virtual representation of complex local circumstances will support the understanding, engineering, and managing of impacted areas. In developing countries, many foundational geodetic projects are being undertaken. We need to extend those to add climate resilience applications.”
Planet Labs PBC, an integrated aerospace and data analytics company, also participated in the side event. Emphasizing Planet’s mission to image the entire Earth every day, Athiye Jawad, Business Development Director EMEA at Planet said, “Having daily earth data that captures climate events globally, and especially in Africa, can be beneficial for better decision-making in order to make global change visible, accessible and actionable.”
At COP27, Microsoft and Planet announced an expanded partnership to apply AI and satellite data to support climate adaptation in Nairobi, Kenya, and Egypt. Planet also launched private previews of the Global Renewables Watch, a living atlas of renewable energy powered by Microsoft, Planet, and The Nature Conservancy.
WGIC intends to present the Geospatial for Climate Action in Africa report findings at COP 28, scheduled to be held in the United Arab Emirates towards the end of 2023.