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Earth Observation for Sustainable Development

By [email protected] - 19th April 2016 - 11:16

These new targets have been encompassed in a new agenda entitled the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development. The agenda (see infographic above) details 17 major goals, covering 169 unique targets, relating to areas such as clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, gender equality and climate action.

In order to meet these goals, we must be able to measure and monitor global changes worldwide, and provide accurate metrics from which to measure success. The UN office of Statistics recently hosted an event focussing on how geospatial information and Earth observation (EO) technologies can assist in achieving the Global Goals1, therefore recognising the importance of EO data as a valuable data stream.

So How can EO help?

Coupling space-based observation with in situ measurements can provide invaluable insight into Earth systems processes over vast scales, investigating areas such as baseline environmental conditions, changes over time, and availability of natural resources. This in turn – with the immense catalogue of historic EO data started by the first Landsat programme in 1972 – can paint a detailed picture on both environmental and societal ecosystem dynamics.

Fusing past knowledge, present interaction and future predictions can guide best management practices, allow us to adapt to our changing surroundings, and mitigate devastating impact from issues such as urban development, climate change and resource exploitation.

Additionally, the Open and Big Data initiatives are ensuring that a sufficient stream of timely and accurate data are available worldwide to a broader audience than ever before, delivering systematic monitoring of Earth processes over time and the development of operational services. EO and geospatial technologies lie at the heart of global Earth monitoring, and, as a result, are invaluable tools with which to help achieve the Global Goals; whether it be monitoring agriculture, measuring sea surface temperature or mapping urban development, the technology provides a wealth of information.

Making an impact

The Satellite Application Catapult’s current programme of activities is already aligned with the 17 Global Goals and, going forward, the hope is that its work will directly help companies, Governments and other organisations understand their potential impact on the Global Goals.

The Catapult programme encompasses a variety of initiatives, for example:

Working with the Pew Charitable Trusts on Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing. This relates to sustainable use of our oceans and supports goal 14 of the UN agenda (‘Life Below Water’).

Work on advanced visualisation of satellite imagery to assist the environmental management of mining and supportive of goal 12 of the UN agenda ((‘Responsible Consumption and Production’).

Agri-tech activities that promote food security and align with goal 2 of the UN agenda (‘Zero Hunger’).

Work with offshore renewable energy that uses satellite technology to further goal 7 of the UN agenda (‘Affordable and Clean Energy’ worldwide).

Full mission simulation

This is just the beginning. Over the next 15 years, EO and geospatial data will become more readily available. The European Space Agency has announced the continuation of the Copernicus programme, ensuring a reliable data stream from the Sentinel satellites until at least 2030 – making it easier to access and cheaper to process en-masse.

Now is the time to harness the power of satellite technologies to work together to promote a sustainable future.

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