Earth Observation for the Green Deal, Sustainable Development, and Digital Innovation: Key Insights from EXPANDEO 2023

 Earth Observation for the Green Deal, Sustainable Development, and Digital Innovation: Key Insights from EXPANDEO 2023

EXPANDEO 2023, the annual conference organised by the European Association of Remote Sensing Companies (EARSC), provided a unique platform for industry leaders, policymakers, and researchers to gather and explore the transformative potential of Earth Observation (EO). EXPANDEO 2023 fostered dialogue and collaboration, focusing on the role of EO in driving policy innovation, informing evidence-based decision-making, and supporting global policy agendas.

Leveraging Earth Observation for the Green Deal: Innovating Solutions and Local Implementation

The Green Deal took centre stage at EXPANDEO 2023 as policymakers and experts explored the transformative potential of EO within this comprehensive policy framework.  Chair of the EARSC Green Deal Working Group, Agnieszka Lukaszczyk, explained that the Group had succeeded in incorporating a reference to EO technology into the text of the EU deforestation legislation representing a game-changing moment for the EO ecosystem. 

Three panels on Achieving Carbon Removals Targets, Collaborative Approaches to Methane Monitoring, and Implementing the New EU Forest Monitoring Directive further elaborated on the pivotal role of EO in these areas:

  • EO provides real-time data crucial for achieving carbon removal targets.
  • It enables global methane monitoring and facilitates international collaboration.
  • EO provides detailed forest data, while AI and cloud computing assist in implementing the EU Forest Monitoring Directive.
  • EO can support robust monitoring of compliance with environmental regulations and transparent tracking of progress toward sustainability targets.
The ” Collaborative Approaches to Menthane Monitoring” Panel

Giuseppe Ottavianelli from the European Space Agency (ESA) emphasised the immense potential of EO in transforming Europe into a climate-neutral continent in his speech. According to him, to unleash this potential, we need to ensure the legal admissibility of EO, invest in R&D, protect industrial competitiveness in Europe, promote digital technology, and develop European talent closing the skills gap. Finally, he stressed that the value of space is in the solutions that it provides to our society. 

“Space is not about space, space is about solutions that it provides”. 

Deputy Head of Unit for Copernicus at DG DEFIS of the European Commission, Elizabeth Hamdouche, stressed the importance of maintaining continuity in major European initiatives such as Copernicus and Destination Earth, which are pivotal in delivering effective solutions to fight against climate change. She also thanked the EO community for their contribution to the development of the Copernicus Programme. 

“It is thanks to such a strong community of providers and users of EO data as we see here today that we can make Copernicus as impactful and important as it is”. 

The conference also hosted a practical discussion panel on the Green Deal’s implementation at the local level. Representatives from four municipalities – Milan, Helsinki, Haarlem, and Ixelles – highlighted that user-centric EO solutions are crucial for effectively adapting to climate change at the city level. 

The panel on the PROTECT project revealed that public authorities, including the European Commission, will be increasingly relying on pre-commercial procurement (PCP) for innovative EO climate services. 

Finally, a special edition of the EO cafe hosted a discussion between Geoff Sawyer, EARSC Strategic Advisor, and Dusan Chrenek, Principal Adviser Digital for the Green Transition at DG CLIMA of the European Commission, discussing the ways digital technologies can bolster the green transition. 

Earth Observation for Monitoring SDGs and Global Collaboration

Another prominent policy topic addressed during the conference was the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030. A panel on assessing progress towards sustainable development highlighted the invaluable role of EO and remote sensing in delivering accurate, reliable, and timely data, facilitating the monitoring of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Tomasz Husak from DG INTPA emphasised the importance of strengthening international partnerships and aligning the EU’s Green Deal with the UN’s SDGs, underscoring the close relationship between these initiatives in achieving sustainable development. He also highlighted the vast potential that space technology holds for the future.

“There is no doubt that the future lies with space”.

Lastly, Ingrid Vanden Berghe from the National Geographic Institute in Belgium addressed the alignment of EO with the UN 2030 Agenda, underlining the importance of geographical data in realising the SDGs. 

Digital Strategy and Common European Data Spaces

EXPANDEO 2023 showcased the intersection of Earth Observation and the Digital Strategy, emphasising the importance of digital tools and data spaces in driving policy innovation. The conference featured the Copernicus Data Space Ecosystem panel, which focused on the newly introduced open initiative by the European Commission and ESA. The data space ecosystem provides free public offerings for cloud computing and very high-resolution (VHR) imagery. The session presented various use cases, including the benefits of CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) monitoring. 

Discussions during the GREAT project workshop brought together the private sector and policymakers, enabling fruitful interactions to shape the future roadmap of the Green Deal Data Space. It has the potential to stimulate innovation and business growth in Europe, as the enhanced access and sharing of data across the EU have the potential to catalyse the creation of data-driven products, services, and processes.

Driving Competitiveness and High-Value Businesses: Skill Development for the European Green Deal and Digital Transition

The “Supporting the Skills for the Twin Transition” panel underscored the urgent need for skill development to meet the challenges of the European Green Deal and digital transition. The discussion emphasised the role of a skilled workforce in enhancing competitiveness, driving policy support, and fostering high-value businesses.

The “Supporting the Skills for the Twin Transition” Panel

Unleashing Earth Observation’s Potential

EXPANDEO 2023 demonstrated how Earth Observation plays a vital role in informing evidence-based policies and decision-making processes across various policy areas. The conference showcased the integration of EO within the Green Deal, highlighting its potential to drive Europe’s climate neutrality and environmental sustainability. Furthermore, the alignment with the UN 2030 Agenda emphasised the contribution of Earth Observation to the achievement of the SDGs on a global scale.

Interested to know more about space for SDGs? Consult our page at Space for United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or subscribe to our newsletter here.

Nataliia Demchuk

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