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Satellite Monitoring IPP CommonSensing project features at COP26

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The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, is the 26th conference of its kind and is being held in the UK at the SEC Centre in Glasgow, Scotland, running between 31 October and 12 November 2021. This conference brings parties together to accelerate action towards the goal of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Today COP26s theme is Adaptation, Loss, and Damage. Across the last year, we have witnessed flash floods turning roads into rivers and sweeping away whole communities, droughts, and excruciating heat waves, at a huge cost to human life, that then sent set uncontrollable forest fires. As these tragedies unfold across the world, it is increasingly difficult to ignore climate change and global warming, the consequences of which we are now seeing on earth. And it is obvious that many countries that have contributed the least to the problem, will be the ones most vulnerable to its impacts.

Improvements in climate science, including those involving satellite monitoring, have made it possible to pinpoint the role of climate change in the creation of ‘natural’ disasters, which means Adaptation, Loss and Damage day at COP26 is an opportunity for those most affected by climate change to demand compensation and finance for the damage done by wealthier countries’ emissions. The University of Portsmouth’s Dr. Richard Teeuw has been working on CommonSensing, a project designed to use satellite technologies to ensure countries most affected by climate change are able to monitor that damage. 

In its latest report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) identified Earth-observing satellites is critical in monitoring the causes and effects of climate change. Satellites provide unprecedented information on the retreat of glaciers, sea-level rise, the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and deforestation worldwide. At the University of Portsmouth, Dr. Richard Teeuw Professor of Geoinformatics and Disaster Risk Reduction is the Risk Science theme leader of the UK Space Agency IPP-funded CommonSensing project which uses satellite imagery for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction applications in the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) of Fiji, Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands. CommonSensings’ ambition is to support the three nations to set new standards for requesting and reporting on climate funds, to strengthen their national and regional climate action policy, and to reduce the impact and improve risk management of natural disasters. 

Today this project has been centre stage at COP26 and featured in two events. The first, titled “Role of earth observation data and tools for improving flows of climate finance: experiences from Fiji, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu” explored the project’s innovative use of satellite remote-sensing data to support applications to climate finance. Then, as part of a keynote address by the Honourable Prime Minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama; the project’s software tools, and its applications were presented at an event titled “Leveraging the use of geospatial information technology and satellite data for improved climate resilience and disaster risk management”. 

Around a third of the population of Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands live less than 5m above sea level. As the planet warms and sea levels rise, and as extreme weather events increase in frequency and intensity, the land is lost, and communities are destroyed. Despite contributing the least to global greenhouse gas emissions, small island nation developing states find themselves on the front-line of climate change.

IPP CommonSensing supports these nations through the innovative use of satellite remote-sensing data. The project is funded by the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme (IPP) financed through the BEIS Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), led by the United Nations Satellite Centre (UNOSAT), and works with the Commonwealth Secretariat and Satellite Applications Catapult, along with a multi-skilled international consortium. 

IPP CommonSensing has created a software platform and held in-country workshops to train local and governmental organisations. Applications within the software help to improve access to climate finance, reduce disaster risk for natural hazards, enhance food security, and enhance resilience to climate change. And today, the Prime Minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama, launches this incredible platform for Fiji at COP26. 

Chloe McClellan
Media and Communications Assistant
Chloe McClellan is an experienced communicator and social media specialist.