Even by Space4Climate’s high standards, 2021 has been an incredibly busy year – from the success of two jam-packed weeks at COP26, right back to Space2Connect in January!
We’ve picked out our S4C Top Ten highlights of the year. It wasn’t an easy choice – see if you agree with us.
Our Top Ten Countdown of 2021
10. Supporting the UK’s food supply chain
Space4Climate’s first embedded researcher placement came to an end in October. Dr Caitlin Douglas, a PhD student at King’s College, London, spent a year with us – in collaboration with the London Food Board and London Climate Change Partnership – bringing stakeholders in the UK food supply chain and the Earth observation industry together.
Caitlin’s placement was funded by the UK Climate Resilience Programme and she joined our Food Supply Chain Climate Resilience Task Group. Caitlin launched a new Space4Climate initiative, conducting a survey to match the needs of the UK’s food supply chain to climate data available from space. It was aimed at food retailers, producers, food industry logistic services, financiers and regulators who rely on data to maintain supplies. The analysis will help to ensure that climate data gathered by satellites provides accessible information for crucial decisions.
Links (open in new tabs):
9. COP26 Communications Workshops
We knew that representing the UK Earth observation community at the world’s most influential climate summit – not to mention during a pandemic – was going to be a big ask but the response from members’ communications teams was fantastic. Building on the success of our first sessions in 2020, well over 100 people collaborated in planning and skills-building during our COP26 Communications Workshops in 2021. The generous sharing and pooling of skills, experiences and resources enabled us to raise the profile of our members on policy and international stages, even before COP26 began at the start of November.
8. Engaging the future generation of UK experts: UNOOSA essay competition and COP26 Youth Takeover days
COP26 is far more than just one summit event and Space4Climate made the most of a series of run-up events to engage the next generation of UK climate data from space experts. The first of these was supporting the UK Space Agency’s involvement in the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) Space4Youth international essay competition, with the Space Generation Advisory Council. The assignment was to develop an idea on how space can foster climate adaptation and mitigation. We were delighted when the winners were announced in June and included Tejasvi Shivakumar, a PhD student at the University of Nottingham. Tej wrote an inspiring essay entitled ‘Earth observation, renewable energy and space influencers as tools to foster climate adaptation and mitigation’ which you can read here https://www.unoosa.org/documents/pdf/SpaceforYouth/2._Space4Youth_Tejasvi_Shivakumar.pdf
Tej joined us on the ‘Space4Climate Now and in the Future’ stand at COP26 on one of our two Youth Takeover Days, where she received a rousing ovation from visitors and we also premiered UNOOSA’s film featuring all three winners (watch the video using the link below).
Our Youth Takeover Days were a huge success in the COP26 Green Zone at Glasgow Science Centre. Featuring members of UKSEDS (the UK space students network), SENSE CDT, early career researchers and colleagues from our membership organisations including the National Centre of Earth Observation (NCEO), European Space Agency’s Future Earth Early Career Network, Ordnance Survey, Earth Blox and Satellite Vu.
Link (opens in new tab): https://youtu.be/TidpHVPt_Yk
7. Space4Climate Champions
How can we tap into the wealth of enthusiasm and world-leading expertise among the Space4Climate membership at every level to promote UK capabilities? This had been our core team’s ambition for a while and 2021 was the year the plan came together. We now have a team of volunteer Space4Climate Champions who have received training in plain language communications, public engagement, events and media interviews. The Champions dived in at the deep end in the COP26 Green Zone at Glasgow Science Centre [http://www.space4climate.com/category/blog/] and again at EMEX later in November. We look ahead to 2022’s events calendar with a confident team of Space4Climate Champions who can join in-person and virtual stands and events. They are confident in promoting the UK Earth observation community and can provide skilled and accessible answers to questions about all aspects of the climate data from space supply chain, its applications and real-world case studies
Link (opens in new tab): http://www.space4climate.com/champions/
6. Building inclusivity into space-enabled climate action
We always enjoy partnering with members on special events. In July we jointly hosted a Climate Partnerships Learning Session, bringing together 40 participants from 16 countries across Africa, Europe, and Asia-Pacific. It was a chance to share and reflect on wide-ranging experiences, united by an interest in data-based climate action. It included designers of data solutions, people working with local communities and professional accreditation bodies for climate scientists. Read and explore the findings and interactive graphics here: https://www.data4sdgs.org/resources/floods-data-droughts-ethics-four-ways-build-inclusivity-data-enabled-climate-action
It successfully led onto a further event on empowering inclusive local climate action through data from space, hosted during COP26. It featured the UK Space Agency International Partnership Programme and provided technical and in-country perspectives on how space data is helping developing countries and emerging economies. Examples included achieving energy independence, meeting net zero goals and enabling local climate action among the communities most vulnerable to the impacts of our changing climate. Discussions illustrated how multi-stakeholder partnerships can deliver the critical trust needed to successfully use satellite data for climate action. They also revealed common challenges and best practices for those joining interested in using geospatial information for international development objectives. Watch the second event here (opens in new tab): In Space We Trust: Powering inclusive local climate action with space technology & human connections – YouTube
5. Space4Climate at the movies
The UK expertise putting 3 climate data satellite missions into space was brought into sharp focus by a series of 3 plain language videos written and commissioned by Space4Climate. Taking the approach of informing a wide range of audiences in plain language, Space4Climate worked with AOK Media to film at NPL, RAL Space and Space Park Leicester to produce 3 short videos: MicroCarb, TRUTHS and Biomass. They were premiered at COP26.
Watch our Climate Missions videos here https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLg56jFOo-FxQinyjl3inE8ZAuzn01yBYA
Read more about the missions on the Space4Climate website http://www.space4climate.com/category/climate-showcase/missions/
4. The new Space4Climate Climate Data from Space storytelling app
Throughout 2021 the core team, our members and digital interactive display innovators Pufferfish have been collaborating on developing an eye-catching and easy-to-access way to explore climate data from space and how UK organisations are using it to make a difference around the world. The Space4Climate Climate Data from Space storytelling app visualises different types of Earth observation data on a digital globe, including over periods of time. Viewers can zoom in on case studies around the world, told through videos and plain language text. While still being refined, it pulled in the crowds on the UK Pavilion in the COP26 Blue Zone (for international delegations and political negotiators) and on our Green Zone stand. It proved a hit again on our stand at the EMEX event in London, the week after COP26. You can explore Pufferfish’s interactive 2D Wake climate platform on our website here http://www.space4climate.com/climate-data-from-space-storytelling-app/
3. Prototype peatland observatory
Space4Climate is unique in bringing together the UK’s leading academic and private sector Earth observation specialists as well as policy-makers and third sector organisations to address urgent climate challenges using trusted satellite data. October saw a textbook example with the launch of the prototype peatland observatory. The original challenge came from a Space4Climate competition won by Prof Fred Worrall of Durham University whose winning idea was to harness Earth observation data to restore and monitor the UK’s valuable peatlands. We assembled a team of members – with Fred as the science lead – to turn the dream into a reality. The team included Assimila, Ordnance Survey, NCEO and Defra and we supported Fred to bring in the National Trust, Natural England and other peatland land managers. The peatland observatory provides data services for restoration across the UK peatlands and helps land managers target future restoration activity. It will also help them to target future peatlands restoration to ensure the UK gains maximum greenhouse gas sinks and to support UK climate resilience. It was showcased at COP26 by Ordnance Survey.
2. Tim Peake joins Space4Climate at COP26 to talk climate and space
Through the UK Space Agency we were very excited to host a live-streamed questions & answers session with UK European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Tim Peake, joined by a panel of our experts.
It took place on November 8th on our COP26 stand with schools and young people joining in person and online to hear how we are using space to help protect the planet. Tim is a naturally gifted communicator and was passionate in sharing his experiences from aboard the International Space Station and how it changed his perception of the vulnerability of our planet to climate change.
After national media interviews Tim was also recorded by teenagers from Hyndland Secondary School, Glasgow, for a local podcast.
Tim and our experts stressed the importance of international collaboration on using satellite data to inform effective climate action in the short and long term and of the vital role that everyone can play in making small changes to combat climate change now and by choosing future careers paths in the space sector.
1. Space4Climate stand at COP26 in association with ESA
Without doubt, the stand-out highlight of the year was being selected from more than 4,000 UK applications to feature at COP26, hosted in the UK for the first time, in Glasgow November 1st -12th. By teaming up with ESA we were able to offer a highly interactive and eye-catching exhibition space that featured not only our new Pufferfish Climate Data from Space storytelling app but also ESA’s interactive touchtable. We took this important opportunity to feature more than 50 UK experts in climate data from space on our stand, including lead ESA Climate Change Initiative scientists. They spoke to visitors, ranging from excited school children to international policy-makers and businesses. On average we estimate we had 90-130 engaged conversations each day of the two-week Green Zone exhibition including with Blue Zone delegates and the public.
A particular highlight was the sell-out NCEO-led event, co-chaired with ESA ‘Monitoring the lungs of the world from space – what satellites reveal about carbon storage in the forests of the Earth’ in the Green Zone Science Show Theatre. It focussed on forests and trees as a key nature-based solution for climate action. Watch it here: https://youtu.be/UDpV-SJnuxE
In addition, we hosted the signing of a vital implementation agreement for the upcoming MicroCarb mission between UK Space Agency and CNES, the French space agency. Read more about that here https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-and-france-reach-new-agreement-on-climate-change-mission