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James Darvill
Principal Professional Services Consultant

Improve environmental monitoring to reach sustainability goals with location data

2021 is a critical year in the global move to tackle climate change, with COP26 (United Nations Climate Change Conference) scheduled to be held in November, having been delayed a year due to Covid-19.

2021 is a critical year in the global move to tackle climate change, with COP26 (United Nations Climate Change Conference) scheduled to be held in November, having been delayed a year due to Covid-19. Improving environmental monitoring is key to helping achieve sustainability.

From the impact of the pandemic on worldwide economies, an opportunity has emerged to ‘build back better’ and ensure that as nations move towards recovery, they do so in a sustainable way. Many policymakers, health and environmental organisations are looking for information that can support decision-making on the smartest and most efficient ways to ensure clean air, greener cities, and better environmental protection.

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Environmental monitoring informs policies and helps predict climate change

Geospatial data has been used to monitor our natural environment for as long as it has been in use. Satellite imagery is a powerful tool for tracking changes in land use that may affect climate, and location data is a vital component of predicting weather, characterising events such as drought or storms, and how these tie into agriculture – which indicate how changes in climate may have economic and social consequences.

Location data is also valuable for reducing the emissions and environmental impact of our cities, transport systems and industries, by adding new insights and measurement capabilities to factors such as air pollution, energy production and use. Collating and analysing disparate data sets from a range of sectors that are implicated in climate change is extremely valuable for informing policies on sustainability.

Polluted city
Environmental monitoring together with location data provides insight to reduce pollution and reduce climate change

Protecting conservation areas

In the UK, geospatial data is used extensively by the Government and public sector to achieve national sustainability goals, including local conservation. Northern England’s South Pennine Moors have undergone over two centuries of damage from industrial pollution and wildfires. The decline of these vital natural resources that capture carbon and other greenhouse gases, and act as habitats to wildlife, is an environmental concern that impacts the whole country. Geospatial data is uniquely capable of mapping vast areas such as the moors in unparalleled detail, to identify the precise location of trees, rivers, and buildings in the area of interest and guide conservation work and. Ordnance Survey’s MasterMap Topography Layer was recently used to characterise over 650km² of this landscape, providing the project with vital data that would guide the regeneration and protection of the area.

Ordnance Survey has also worked with the city of Dubai to identify environmental changes and predict the potential impact of climate change on the UAE region. As a rapidly growing urban environment, the effect of the city’s expansion on natural resources has not yet been fully recognised. Using Earth Observation imagery, Ordnance Survey – along with Deimos Space UK and the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) – automated the creation of geospatial data to enable far more accurate and cost-efficient monitoring of the changes in landscape which impact the city’s sustainability. The system delivers valuable insights to allow for more environmentally-conscious decisions by local Government, ensuring that Dubai is both enhancing resilience to climate change by preserving the natural resources, and protecting local species such as mangroves and palm that also provide cultural and economic value.

Through improved quality, coverage, and interoperability of location data, every country has the potential to unlock brand new insights on the value of their natural resources. It adds a priceless layer of information that can connect data on the environment, infrastructure, and utilities, from which geospatial analytics can be employed to guide policies on improving sustainability or reducing pollution. Geospatial information is playing an important role worldwide in addressing the issues contributing to global warming, and Ordnance Survey is committed to helping nations equip themselves with the right tools so that the power of location data can be utilised by all in the fight against climate change.

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By James Darvill
Principal Professional Services Consultant