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How can space help with climate, sustainability and relief?

Reaching the end users and converting space data and services into local value creation are two major challenges to be discussed in a panel at the International Space Symposium in Colorado Springs on April 10th.

Written by
Berit Ellingsen
April 8, 2024
Monitoring rain forest use is one of the ways space can help with climate, sustainability and development.
Monitoring rain forest use is one of the ways space can help with climate, sustainability and development.Photo: Pixabay

Space as a tool for climate action was the overarching theme for the first global space conference on climate change, GLOC 2023, held in Oslo in May last year by the IAF and the Norwegian Space Agency. 

- The panel debate on the International Space Symposium is a direct follow-up to the themes that were highlighted at GLOC 2023, says Christian Hauglie-Hanssen, Director General of the Norwegian Space Agency. He will lead the panel debate.

Read more about the GLOC 2023 conference on space and climate here.

One of the conclusions from GLOC 2023 was that the space sector has much to offer in the work against climate change, to improve sustainability and aid in relief. This is especially the case for data and services.

- But perhaps the biggest challenge is to reach the end users. And how to convert the space data and services into local value creation and innovation. This is a major theme of the panel debate, Hauglie-Hanssen says.

What are the main factors to local value creation?

- An ecosystem of services from space for climate, sustainability and relief should include four main factors, says Hauglie-Hanssen.

The first are the facilitators of data or services from space that can reach relevant end users. The United Nations and their subsidiaries, such as United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), are examples of such facilitators. 

- They are well-established, respected and know how to reach the end users directly and efficiently, Hauglie-Hanssen says.

Then there are the providers of space data and services. These include institutional programs such as Copernicus and JPSS, cooperating bodies such as the Space for Climate Observatory (SCO) and commercial actors that offer earth observation data and services.

- Third are the end users. A key challenge is how to best match their actual needs with available services, and to identify best practices for creating local engagement and value creation, says Hauglie-Hanssen.

Christian Hauglie-Hanssen, Director General at the Norwegian Space Agency.

Christian Hauglie-Hanssen, Director General of the Norwegian Space Agency.

Photo: NOSA

How to finance lasting change?

The fourth and final main part of the ecosystem is financing. This is necessary to support the initiatives and programs that bring space data and services to the end users. 

- Commercial operators need to be able to make a profit to support the programs. Thus, obtaining and establishing long term financing is very important. Particularly for stability, predictability and for creating permanent positive change, Hauglie-Hanssen says.

Financing can come from governmental institutions, developmental programs, philanthropic organizations or others.

- Both a comprehensive national policy for development and a long-term commitment is necessary. So is developing a sense of ownership in the community, local engagement and stable value chains, says Hauglie-Hanssen.

He views the Norwegian governmental programs NICFI - Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative and Blue Justice Initiative as examples of such policy initiatives. 

- They are bringing satellite data and solutions from space to end users in order to monitor the rain forest and combat illegal fishing. These programs are supported by the Norwegian government. NICFI is also financed by the philanthropic organization Bezos Earth Fund, says Hauglie-Hanssen.

Blue Justice aims to curb fisheries crime.

Blue Justice is a Norwegian program that uses data from space to combat illegal fishing and other maritime crime.

Photo: ESA

Aims for a lively debate

The panel includes representatives from all four parts of the ecosystem to learn from their experiences and viewpoints. The participants are: 

Philippe Baptiste - President CNES and representative of the Space for Climate Observatory initiative, Aarti Holla-Maini - Director of UNOOSA, Tidiane Outtara - President African Space Council and Karen St. Germain - Director NASA’s Earth Science Division. 

- These are complex questions. My ambition is therefore to engage the panelists in a lively and enlightening discussion. In order to progress in how space can help with climate change, sustainability and relief, we should find and agree on the key obstacles that must be overcome. As well as identify possible solutions to these, Hauglie-Hanssen says.

- I’m personally engaged in these questions because of the power of space-based observations for solving important challenges for people and society. There are still significant hurdles to overcome, but the potential for creating real change for the end users is a great motivation, Hauglie-Hanssen concludes.

The panel debate “Climate, sustainability, and relief – the role of space” takes place at the International Space Symposium in Colorado Springs on Wednesday April 10th from 2.50 pm to 3.35 pm.

For more information 

Marianne Moen - Head Communication - Norwegian Space Agency

marianne.moen@spaceagency.no -  +47 48063743