REDUCING waste, protecting vulnerable communities and making finance sustainable and accessible are all climate change goals which can be reached using geospatial data. It is this technology which has inspired 11 days of discussion next month as the space and geospatial pavilion launches to coincide with COP26.

The Space & Geospatial Virtual Pavilion for COP26 brings together more than 30 national and international partners from across the space and geospatial industry to discuss the potential of geospatial data for sustainability.

“During COP26, the Space & Geospatial Virtual Pavilion aims to showcase how the use of space data and location intelligence can help us to unlock significant opportunities for businesses and governments to work collaboratively in achieving carbon emission targets and to build solutions across sectors and societal challenges,” explained Luca Budello, Geospatial Knowledge Transfer Manager at KTN and curator of the Pavilion.

“Geospatial intelligence is critical to solving the Climate Change challenge. To influence changes at the global level, we need to understand the impact of climate change at the local level. The availability of geospatial data at scale is unlocking new ways to provide meaningful insights into complex global climate science that can be applied to virtually any sector of the economy.”

As collaboration is one of the key themes of COP26, KTN took the opportunity to put this into action by bringing together such key players as the UK Space Agency, Space4Climate, the European Space Agency (ESA), Ordnance Survey, the Geospatial Commission, the Group on Earth Observation, Satellite Applications Catapult, the Association for Geographic Information and many other high profile organisations.

Beth Greenaway, Space4Climate Chair and UK Space Agency Head of Earth Observations and Climate, said: “The COP26 Space and Geospatial Digital Pavilion will allow global audiences to discover how the UK’s space community, in partnership with other countries, supports and accelerates the use of trusted climate data from space in decision-making to achieve net zero ambitions.”

Thalia Baldwin, Director of the Geospatial Commission added that it was proud to be involved with KTN's COP26 Geospatial & Space virtual pavilion partnership event.

“It will shine a light on the breadth of geospatial enabled work already underway on climate change mitigation and adaptation solutions. The global challenge of climate change can only be effectively tackled through collaboration and with the help of location intelligence and innovative geospatial technology,” she said.

The 11 day online event includes plenary and parallel sessions as well as content curated by the event partners which touches on all aspects of space and geospatial data from using earth observation tools to help indigenous communities to modelling energy systems to applying geospatial information to climate challenges.

On 10 and 11 November plenary sessions will follow the COP26 goals of Resilience, Adaptation, Finance and Collaborations, while the parallel sessions will be based on the official COP programme, covering nature, transport, adaptation, built environment, science and innovation, finance and data.

David Henderson, Chief Geospatial Officer at Ordnance Survey said: “We believe geospatial information is vital for any organisation or nation reaching its sustainability goals. The adaptation and mitigation actions required to address climate change challenges, require trusted insights from an increasingly dynamic understanding of the geography of the planet, of nations and communities.”

Geospatial data is already powering much of the technology developing solutions to climate change challenges, like Mantle Labs, Airbus, Common Sensing, Forest Mind and Costain.

Mantle Labs is using geospatial data to power a platform called Geobotanics to help farmers in developing nations to protect their crops and improve their access to credit. The technology analyses the likelihood of drought, monitors crop density and predicts yields to create a credit score which the farmer can then use to access finance.

Airbus, which already has satellites in orbit which monitor the earth, gives the data to mortgage lenders and insurers to help them make decisions about where to plan infrastructure projects.

Common Sensing is a project designed to support small island nations who are often at worst risk of climate change events. It helps the governments of Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands to access earth observation data and climate finance to protect their environments.

Forest Mind aims to protect the forests crucial for our planet’s health. Designed by the Satellite Applications Catapult, it protects forested areas by reducing the impact of the supply chain. It helps food producers, suppliers and retailers to measure and report their impact using agricultural and sustainability specialists, earth observation data and analysis.

Costain has developed a tool, using geospatial data, which aims to protect the natural environment by helping the planners of train routes and other infrastructure projects to calculate the best locations for their projects. This helps protect wildlife and further minimises the impact of so called ‘green projects’ on the environment.

Geospatial consultancy, Sparkgeo, is another partner involved in the virtual pavilion event. Founder and CEO Will Cadell is convinced geospatial data will be pivotal in the measurement and monitoring of climate change concerns. “We need to be thinking about net zero, we need to be thinking about what our world will be looking like in the next 30 to 100 years. Ours is the only sector that can do it. We hope you will join us in making this the most important thing we do in our lifetimes,” he said.

How raw data is informing action on waste and warzones

Celtic Way: , Alcis used high-resolution satellite images and targeted fieldwork to conduct detailed geospatial analysis in Afghanistan, Alcis used high-resolution satellite images and targeted fieldwork to conduct detailed geospatial analysis in Afghanistan

GEOSPATIAL insights are in action across the world and Qflow is one example. It is a cloud-based platform that automates data capture on construction sites and delivers unique data insights. Waste and material data is captured through a smartphone app by taking a photo of delivery notes at the gate.

The photos are digitised using Optical Character Recognition and fed into the cloud.

The raw data is processed by Qflow’s models and analysed against critical factors such as material quality, waste compliance, and responsible sourcing.

Actionable insights are sent straight to the project teams to follow up on. This helps manage cost, quality and compliance while reporting against project key performance indicators.

This technology is used by real estate company Landsec and the insights resulted in an estimated 40% less time spent auditing data, 44 tonnes in potential carbon savings and 22 tonnes in potential waste reduction.

Qflow lets Landsec optimise productivity and sustainability on site with significantly reduced manual data input.

This improves their accuracy of data and frees up time for additional value-adding activities.

By geospatially representing where materials are sourced from, and the waste’s destination, it is possible to identify alternative facilities that would incur significantly lower carbon emissions.

Through the combination of accurate and timely data capture, and different forms of analytics and visualisation, it is now possible to reduce the carbon emissions associated with construction activities in real time.

Meanwhile geospatial data is informing governments around the world about warzones. One piece of research from the Overseas Development Institute, commissioned by Alcis, used high-resolution satellite images and targeted fieldwork to conduct detailed geospatial analysis.

Authors David Mansfield and Graeme Smith used tis to understand the resource flows, Taliban movements and activities across Nimroz, a strategic province in south-west Afghanistan bordering Iran and Pakistan.

The research revealed the importance of control over crossborder trade to the overall balance of power in the country, and the prospects for an enduring peace.

The authors studied the main sources of funds for different conflict actors in what became the first provincial capital to be taken by the insurgents following the withdrawal of American and allied troops.

First, the research findings showed that ‘taxes’ from trade in both legal and illegal goods far outweighed the funding from international donors that has been trickling down to remote provinces. In Nimroz, informal taxation by both sides of the conflict, raises about $235 million annually, compared with less than $20 million of investment and aid flowing into the province from Kabul.

While Nimroz is a market hub for the processing of opiates, ephedrine and methamphetamine; the value of trade in legal goods passing through the province far surpasses that of illegal drugs.

Second, the report’s findings emphasised the importance of economic rather than political motivations in explaining the incremental victories of the Taliban. Rather than aiming to simply control more landmass, it appears the group was primarily concerned with the funds that could be collected by seizing key sites along roads and highways.

Third, the research method was highly innovative and is replicable globally.

The authors drew upon very high resolution satellite imagery and targeted fieldwork to conduct detailed geospatial analysis over time and space in order to map the chain of revenues and rents along transport corridors.

This method has wider application for the design of taxation, fiscal and anti-corruption strategies, as well as a check on the accuracy of government revenue statements and potential revenues across all frag