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David Henderson
Chief Geospatial Officer, Ordnance Survey

Mitigating climate change - what governments can do now

For the global community, adapting and mitigating to climate change is not optional. By mapping our world and linking vital information back to our common geography, we can help governments and business respond to the climate crisis in an impactful way. If there is one essential thing governments can do now, it’s to invest in their nation’s geospatial infrastructure. The simple reason for doing so is to ensure they have the necessary data resources in place so as to plan, respond and monitor effectively in tackling the complex challenges of a changing climate.

In the UK, we maintain a trusted geospatial data asset that our government and business can turn to for the bigger picture on what is happening to our environment, and to help plan where investments should be directed. However, this is not a globally consistent picture with many nations unable to access a similar level of foundational data on which to base adaptation and mitigation strategies.

With COP26 upon us, the message from National Mapping and Geospatial Agencies (NMGAs) is simple – trust your national geospatial infrastructure to help you make better decisions. As governments invest more, the return on the investment will help you cope with the emerging risks and challenges of climate change. Energy systems, transport networks, habitat loss, natural resources – all of these can be meaningfully managed and adapted with location at the core.

Applying geospatial information to climate challenges was the focus of the recent Cambridge Conference in Conversation event, where senior leaders of NMGAs from across the globe convened to recognise the importance of our role in supporting the climate change response. Delegate organisations at the Conference pledged to act as advocates for the role of location in each of our countries, while we will also act now in committing to make ourselves sustainable organisations.

Learn more about the Cambridge Conference recommendations. 

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Geospatial investment will help nations cope with the emerging risks and challenges of climate change

The supporting role of NMGAs also exists in their ability to enable collaboration across borders, curate authoritative data from multiple sources, make data accessible and reusable, and develop standards so that technical solutions can be applied consistently.

There are two principal ways governments can use location data to support policies to adapt and mitigate:

  1. Firstly, mandate the use of authoritative location data from NMGAs, as a framework for bringing together multiple sources of information. The benefit here is linking critical data from governments, industry, research, academia, NGOs and civil society.
  2. Secondly, improve data infrastructure and assets by investing in the collection and maintenance of high-quality geospatial data to optimise their national response and provide a location context to their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

Cambridge Conference in Conversation also discussed and shared examples of how geography is being used to address the four goals for COP26 and reinforced how location data can be used to understand the impacts of climate change, target investment for resilience, and plan critical measures to push towards net zero.

The statement paper not only sets the scene for Cambridge Conference 2022, but also brings together the views of National Mapping and Geospatial Agencies at a global level to articulate our role in supporting governments and other decision-makers as they consider the fundamental changes needed to meet the targets set out in the Paris Agreement. Only through global collaboration can we meet this challenge.

We’ll be discussing the benefits of geospatial information at the Space and Geospatial Virtual Pavilion for COP26 on the 9th November. You can join us by registering here 

Ordnance Survey is proud to champion the shared commitment of the Cambridge Conference community of national mapping and geospatial agencies, and it’s a measure of that community’s success that we can draw on the pledge and recommendations laid out in the Cambridge Conference statement paper to play our part.

True success, however, will be measured in how quickly and evenly nations adapt and mitigate against climate change. If we look back in 10 years and see that geospatial infrastructure brought clarity to our decisions, speed to our actions, and collaboration between governments and industry in preserving our fragile planet, then we can be proud of both our actions and our words.

David Henderson
By David Henderson
Chief Geospatial Officer, Ordnance Survey

David leads the strategy and roadmap to reinforce and extend Ordnance Survey’s position, reputation and contribution as a world-leading geospatial organisation.