Predictions for 2024 - Communication, collaboration and call to action

By Donna Lyndsay, Strategic Market Lead for Sustainability at Ordnance Survey

7 minute read
Ordnance Survey (OS) has been working and innovating hard in the sustainability area, which was reflected in our participation at COP28 at the end of 2023. I was able to demonstrate our new monitoring and verification service OS VeriEarth®, which is currently accurately mapping and monitoring the health of peatlands in South Yorkshire and will be able to inform and target the future restoration of the site.

I was also able to update delegates on the progress made by the Supply Chain Data Partnership, which has reached a proof of concept for a trusted location insights platform. This was followed by the announcement of a new larger coalition – this will be a game-changer in transforming markets into the most protective force on the planet. Accurate and trusted location data is key to all of these initiatives; they cannot translate into action without understanding exactly where something has happened. OS has a huge amount of expertise in this area and continues to be a key player in helping to solve some of the sustainability challenges we are facing.  

Donna Lyndsay, Strategic Market Lead for Sustainability

What do you think is going to be new in 2024?

Validation and verification processes are going to grow in significance for companies as they wrangle new regulations and disclosures that affect their corporate reporting. These regulations are increasing focus on sustainable practice, emissions, environmental impact and climate risk. We need to have trusted monitoring, reporting and verification systems in place, which must be objective and transparent. Confidence must be restored in the accuracy of claims made in the voluntary carbon credits market. We can achieve this now by combining monitoring capabilities from space (Earth Observation), air and ground data collection. OS VeriEarth®, which was launched last year, combines satellite and ground-based data with location intelligence to create and visualise a baseline of a habitat in a target location.

We may also see greater citizen engagement as technology enables companies to understand individual values through digital fingerprinting and AI capabilities, in turn leading to a greater need to protect individuals’ data from being harvested. AI will enable mass efficiency savings in the processing of data to enable patterns to be identified faster for predictive and preventative measures, such as to ensure appropriate use of land and the reductions of harms. An example of this will be the impending mandatory requirements for Biodiversity Net Gain in England. But the quality of data used to inform the AI will be critical to ensure that the insights created by AI models can be checked or validated and the provenance of training data, specifically ground truth data is known, otherwise we run a real risk of bias and skewed results leading to poor outcomes.

Encouraged by the successes of last year’s COP28 we will see greater global corporate collaboration in the move forward to drive systematic change and to help the markets become a protective force. There will be significant battle lines drawn from those who resist the transition to those who see great opportunity and the need to change. The winners will be responsible for our planet’s future.

What’s going to stay the same in 2024?

I think it’s clear that the relationship between EO (Earth Observation) and Geo (geospatial data) will remain critically important. At OS we are working on several projects to help customers get more insight and detail from this information. EO data can show many things, but to make informed on the ground decisions, it needs context. This is where accurate geospatial data can support. By providing a geospatial lens, users can see the detail and the true impact.

One good example of this is heat mapping information. In a project backed by the UK Space Agency, OS collaborated with the National Centre for Earth Observation, using satellite data to monitor and map heat in urban locations. The aim was to provide meaningful insights for policymakers to manage the impacts of climate change in hot spots across the UK and further afield. Geospatial data can be combined with other datasets such as climate data to unlock insights into the impact of climate change.  

One of the outcomes was to show definitively that the presence of vegetation in urban neighbourhoods means these areas are much cooler than those without. Higher levels of tree cover and green space - or both - can make a drastic difference to temperature.  This helps planners conclude that the future mapping of cities must include more green space and cover to help mitigate the risk of serious heat events.

"What is clear is the urgent need and want across those I met to collaborate on a scale never seen before, breaking silos down to ensure we can mobilise the skills and technologies needed."

Donna Lyndsay

What would you like to change in 2024?

There are some key things I learnt from COP28 and that I would like to see actioned in 2024 to meet the climate challenge we will all face. There are a lot of Cs in COP: Climate, Carbon, even conflict of opinion. But the 3 C’s I’d like to take forward in 2024 are:

Collaboration. COP is an unusual environment, but it is an amazing place to meet new and old friends from totally different sectors and disciplines around the world who have a common interest in driving the change to ensure we all have a fighting chance to save nature and humanity. What is clear is the urgent need and want across those I met to collaborate on a scale never seen before, breaking silos down to ensure we can mobilise the skills and technologies needed.

Communication. It also became clear that many of us have been shouting in our own echo chambers - not sharing the intelligence needed by others wide enough. Talking to the finance sector it became very clear that space and geospatial data have not done enough to communicate the value of, and access to, our data to these sectors who really need it. We really need to find a way to communicate what we do far better to those outside our industry.

Call to action. Beyond talking, we must now move forward faster than ever before and that will take effort and funding. Frustration was often heard from those with either transformative technologies or on-the-ground projects delivering results - many of which seem to be unable to move beyond Proof of Concept or grant funding to scale fast. They cited corporate investment need for high returns as a barrier to early investment, which of course means corporates can’t also support 'Not for profit' enterprises. I met several who need to scale fast so if organisations want to really put their money where their mouth is and truly make a difference, then get in touch, I know some companies and organisations who really need help.

So, I move into 2024 with hope that the people I met have the will, the want, and the capacity to drive forward. I just hope we can do it fast enough.

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By Donna Lyndsay

Donna Lyndsay, OS's Strategic Market Lead Environment and Sustainability, talks about her predictions for 2023.

Donna Lyndsay is the Strategic Market Lead for Environment and Sustainability at OS. She supports OS's mission to be a world leader in geospatial services, delivering location insight for positive impact with colleagues, partners and customers. Donna is also Vice Chair of the Space4Climate group who aim to put the UK at the forefront of global efforts to create and use trusted satellite data for climate action.