From The Council

WGIC and GCoM Join Forces to Amplify Climate Action in Cities

WGIC and GCoM kick off joint efforts to address the geospatial needs of cities with respect to climate action at COP27.

WGIC Secretariat February 14, 2023
WGIC at GCoM-led panel discussion at COP27

With a firm understanding of the essential role of geospatial and Earth observation technologies in climate action and sustainable development and a strong belief in the power of collaboration, the World Geospatial Industry Council (WGIC) partnered with the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and Climate TRACE to release the GHG monitoring report to benefit all climate action stakeholders. WGIC was recognized for its efforts and was presented with the 2021 Prince Talal International Prize at COP27. On the other hand, WGIC strengthened its collaboration with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy (GCoM) to identify the evolving challenges and needs of the cities and address the same with geospatial technologies. 

Climate Emergency is Upon Cities 

In recent years, uncertainties such as frequent and high-intensity weather events, energy crises, massive demographic shifts, and pandemics of unprecedented scale have called out city leaders’ attention and action to sustainable development, including drastic emission cuts.  

Local governments need access to accurate and timely geospatial data and tools to address these challenges. But, more often than not, local governments have either no access to or are inconsistent in using geospatial data and tools that address climate-related risks that impact their cities, residents, and economies. It is imminent that governments implement integrated, cross-sectoral climate policies, and often partnerships show the way forward to unlock data, tools, and solutions. 

WGIC and GCoM, along with their alliance partners and members, came together at COP27 to dive deeper into the challenges and opportunities of cities and local governments. At the center of the WGIC’s communication along with GCoM was how geospatial technologies from the private sector could enhance the actions of cities to address climate change. This was brought together in the WGIC and GCoM discussion paper titled “Connecting the Dots: Leveraging Commercial Geospatial Capabilities for Climate Action in Africa Project.” This discussion paper was released at the COP27 side event ‘Delivering net-zero and resilient cities through research and innovation,’ organized by GCoM and its partners. 

WGIC at GCoM-led panel discussion at COP27
WGIC participates in the GCoM-led panel discussion on delivering net-zero and resilient cities through research and innovation at COP27 

Collaboration for Climate Resilient Future 

During the panel discussion organized on this occasion, speakers shared ideas on how to tackle research and innovation (R&I) gaps to unlock a low-emission, climate-resilient future. However, as the City R&I Agenda and the updated Global Research and Action Agenda show, there is a need for a helping hand to get there. The agendas serve as an evidence base for cities to preview the opportunities that can convert local ambition into action at the speed and scale required to meet the moment. WGIC and GCoM collaboration aims to connect the right people with the right information, including understanding and applying geospatial data to address climate change issues at the city level. Though geospatial tools are widely available, there is room to expand their utilization and need to strengthen the awareness, accessibility, and accuracy at a scale the world’s cities need to succeed. 

Participating in the discussion, Robert Hoddenbach, Global Director – Land Asset Integrity at Fugro and Chair of the Partnership & Industry Engagement Committee at WGIC, highlighted the importance of collaboration and its key role in climate action. Hoddenbach talked about digital twins, a dynamic, digital replica of a physical object, process, or system, and the fundamental role of geospatial data in unlocking its value and utility for climate action.    

To further explain his point, Hoddenbach said, “We collect geo data and create digital twins. In the simplest form, it answers the questions we address in a city environment. For example, sea level rise, flooding, and energy efficiency. We translate that data into a digital environment to be able to simulate it and make predictions.” Queensland is a good example to showcase the results of utilizing a digital twin. After a cyclone hit the coast of Queensland in 2015, using a spatial digital twin, specifically focusing on the utility network, it became possible to deal with the large-scale blackouts within days, which would otherwise take several weeks. 

Building on the example Hoddenbach shared, Benjamin Jance, Head of Research and Innovation at the GCoM Secretariat, noted, “It is great to see digital twins in action and how they directly tackle the priorities cities and local governments have identified through the City Research and Innovation Agenda. It’s proof that there is an opportunity to engage cities, local governments, and the private sector in long-term partnerships to direct resources, generate knowledge, and strengthen capacity for climate action.” 

In the spirit of the concept, the paper presented at COP27, WGIC, and GCoM intends to identify the needs of cities and enumerate the ways they can be addressed with geospatial technologies. WGIC believes these deliberations will lead to solving the specific needs of the cities. The goal is to prescribe a set of geospatial data, tools, solutions, workflows, and frameworks that can assist city authorities in their priority areas on climate, especially in the Global South. 

As the next step, WGIC and GCoM target to bring out a white paper to document the available capabilities and capacities that WGIC members can provide to assist in cities’ climate mitigation and adaptation strategies.