Photo credit  |  Screenshot of SPEI 12-month on the EO4SD CR Platform

Earth Observation for sustainable development: Climate resilience

Climate services  |  09 July, 2021  |  Reading time: 8 minutes

The European Space Agency Earth Observation for Sustainable Development (EO4SD) Climate Resilience Cluster collaborates to give insights about the potential of EO to support climate-resilient decision-making at regional and national scales.

Earth Observation (EO) data enables global climate research by providing timely and accurate information in large quantities about the Earth’s atmosphere, landmasses, and oceans. This information, when combined with information about our society, can paint a very powerful picture about climate risks and resilience building opportunities. ESA’s Earth Observation for Sustainable Development (EO4SD) initiative works closely with International Financing Institutions (IFIs) and their client countries to harness the benefits of EO for their operations and resources management. The EO4SD Climate Resilience Cluster provides insight on, and access to, EO data and delivers products and tools to support climate-resilient decision making at regional, national and international levels.


The uses for EO data to support sustainable development linked to climate resilience is wide-ranging, from providing maps to validating model outputs. The EO4SD Climate Resilience Cluster’s aim is to identify specific needs of the IFIs and provide EO-based services to meet these needs. The cluster also carries out capacity-building activities to allow stakeholders to use EO-based information autonomously and sustainably for climate resilience decision making. Examples of the services the EO4SD Climate Resilience cluster provide include:

  • Data provision to the World Bank and the cluster’s own climate data platform
  • Supporting risk screening and hazard assessment
  • Indicator provision and tool development
  • Mapping and monitoring, including model validation
  • Impact assessment of climate change
  • Webinars and online courses on climate change and climate-resilient decision making

UK expertise

Space4Climate members Telespazio UK, a subsidiary of Telespazio (a 67/33% joint venture between Leonardo and Thales), and Acclimatise (a Willis Towers Watson (WTW) company and part of its Climate and Resilience Hub) are the UK-based participants of the EO4SD Climate Resilience Cluster. Other partners based across Europe include GMV (the project prime, based in Spain), SISTEMA (based in Austria), GeoVille (based in Austria) and the National Observatory of Athens (NOA) (based in Greece).

Telespazio UK is an experienced consulting, technology, engineering, space operations and service development business. As part of the EO4SD Climate Resilience cluster, Telespazio UK carried out climate data provision and tool development. Building on its experience as the leading developer of the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) Climate Data Store (CDS), Telespazio UK assisted with the provision of data to the cluster’s climate data platform and directly to the IFIs, such as the World Bank’s Climate Change Knowledge Portal (CCKP). Furthermore, Telespazio UK has provided a number of climate impact indicators to different IFIs. For example, the Standardised Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI) for 6, 9, 12, and 18-month timescales and Potential Evapotranspiration (PET) indicator were developed using EO precipitation and Copernicus reanalysis datasets for the African Union’s African Risk Capacity (ARC).

Climate impact indicators using state-of-the-art EO and climate datasets were provided to the CCKP, including the SPEI, as an indicator of water stress, and precipitation indicators (for example, 1-in-50 maximum 1-day rainfall and 1-in-50 maximum 5-day rainfall). These indicators have also been made available via the cluster’s platform, where the data can be visualised and plotted. Extreme rainfall indicators were also provided to improve the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) assessment of flood impact and its link to extreme precipitation. The data were seamlessly integrated into IFC’s existing climate risk tool for ease of use.

In addition, working with the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), Telespazio UK have developed the Rainfall Explorer, an interactive web-based tool that provides reliable insights into potential climate risks to existing and future investments. The Rainfall Explorer enables users to look up rainfall events across the globe and provides the duration, the return period and the statistical significance of the event, based on the historical record.

Figure 1 Screenshot of the Rainfall Explorer tool output. Photo credit: Telespazio UK.

The Climate and Resilience Hub at WTW helps governments, corporates and financial institutions manage, measure, report and take action on risk and capital through the provision of advice and analytics, structuring and completing transactions, and placing risk.

The involvement of WTW in the EO4SD Climate Resilience project has been to:

  • Identify user needs
  • Guide and refine solutions development
  • Build capacity
  • Communicate impact

WTW helped to convene stakeholders from IFIs around the world that were interested in piloting and mainstreaming the use of EO in their investment projects or corporate tools. WTW worked in lockstep with IFIs ranging from the World Bank to the ARC, to identify entry points where EO data could bring the most value to their existing risk assessment processes, corporate analytics tools, and investment projects. A key part of this needs assessment included the production of climate risk summaries, that distilled the key physical climate risks to each proposed project, as well as a suite of potential EO-driven solutions able to be deployed to manage those risks.

Following this, WTW helped EO4SD Climate Resilience partners to craft and deliver on-point, high-impact technical solutions, and helped deliver bespoke training programmes aimed at enabling stakeholders to access EO data and understand how EO data can be deployed in common in climate adaptation frameworks.

The team contributed to delivery of some of these solutions, including of EO data summary reports, that provide the evidence needed to support applications for climate finance, and the design of the Rainfall Explorer and upgrade of the World Bank CCKP.

WTW also helped to design a tool to estimate the net present value of assets based on different hazard and adaptation scenarios and contributed to delivery.

Finally WTW led the EO4SD Climate Resilience project’s communication output, highlighting and disseminate success stories and project impacts to the wider world through brochures, blog articles, and social media.

Figure 2: WTW developed brochures distilling concrete applications of Earth Observation data by IFIs.


Manu Sharma, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA):

“We are very much focused on finding ways to assess how resilient our projects can be … we need to make sure that funds are being spent in the right way; tools like the Rainfall Explorer really help us move the needle.”

Dr Mohamad Nobakht, Principal Earth Observation System Engineer at Telespazio UK, developer of the Rainfall Explorer

“One of the key contributions of EO4SD Climate Resilience project was to provide decision-ready information to the IFIs, derived from EO and climate data, and to facilitate mainstreaming their use in IFIs’ operations. Rainfall Explorer in particular was one of the analytical tools that was received very well by MIGA, a member of the World Bank Group. This tool provided great insight into historical extreme precipitations and their link to flood events on a global scale. It allowed climate experts at MIGA to look up any flood event that has occurred anywhere on the planet between 1979 and now, and quickly extract high quality information about the statistical return period of the extreme precipitations leading to that particular event.”

Dr Richard Bater, Senior Associate at the Climate & Resilience Hub, Willis Towers Watson:

“Earth Observation data hold enormous untapped potential to bring scale, consistency, and timeliness to the assessment of climate risks, throughout project lifecycles. With the available time-series of global satellite data, pandemic-related constraints on international travel and forecast long-term reductions in air travel motivated by emissions-reduction efforts, the value of EO data has never been clearer. The EO4SD Climate Resilience project co-delivered concrete technical solutions and training tailored to the needs and capacity of each stakeholder. Our engagements have resulted in EO data being made more readily available to global audiences through public climate data portals, being used in to improve the accuracy of natural catastrophe parametric insurance solutions and being used to fill large data gaps in data sparse regions. They have helped communities most at-risk from the impacts of climate change to build the rationale for resilience investment and to leverage climate finance. This project has sharpened our understanding of how IFIs and other financial institutions will increasingly stand to benefit by deploying EO data as they manage portfolio exposure in the face of growing policy and regulatory expectations vis-à-vis climate risk.”

“With the available time-series of global satellite data, pandemic-related constraints on international travel and forecast long-term reductions in air travel motivated by emissions-reduction efforts, the value of EO data has never been clearer.” Dr Richard Bater, Willis Towers Watson