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Perspectives on EO for the SDGs
  The Role of Geospatial Information and Earth Observations in the SDGs: A Policy Perspective  
  Earth Observation for Ecosystem Accounting  
  Forging Close Collaboration Between EO Scientists and Official Statisticians – An Australian Case Study  
  Monitoring the 2030 Agenda in Mexico: Institutional Coordination and the Integration of Information  
  Perspectives from a Custodian Agency for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries  
  The ‘Urban’ SDG and the Role for Satellite Earth Observations  
  EO4SDG: Earth Observations in Service of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development  
  Pan-European Space Data Providers and Industry Working in Support of the SDGs  
  The Rise of Data Philanthropy and Open Data in Support of the 2030 Agenda  
  Building a Demand-Driven Approach to the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development  
  Environmental Information from Satellites in Support of Development Aid  
spacer Pan-European Space Data Providers and Industry Working in Support of the SDGs

Europe has two intergovernmental agencies dedicated to satellite Earth observations (EO): the European Space Agency (ESA) develops and operates a diverse range of EO satellite missions including the Sentinel series in cooperation with the European Commission and the Copernicus Programme, while the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) focuses on supply of weather and climate-related satellite data to the National Meteorological Services of Member and Cooperating States in Europe and other users worldwide.

Both agencies provide data streams (making best use of Earth observations, satellite communications and satellite navigation information) with significant potential to assist with the monitoring and reporting for multiple SDGs.

8.1 Pan-European space agencies and sustainable development

ESA has been working in close partnership with UN agencies since the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, in 2002. It supports the UN Environmental Conventions (UNFCCC, UNCCD and CBD) with international partners and financial institutions like the World Bank to promote the use of space data and technologies to support sustainable development activities and programmes.

ESA has developed a programme that comprises EO missions in three categories: meteorological missions, scientific missions (Earth Explorers) and the Sentinel satellite missions for the Copernicus programme led by the European Commission. All three categories of missions have potential to contribute to SDGs.

EUMETSAT’s observations of weather, environment and climate, along with its scientific and technical expertise and support to capacity-building also help make the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals a reality.

EUMETSAT’s primary objective as an intergovernmental organisation, as set out in its Convention, is to establish, maintain and exploit European systems of meteorological satellites, taking into account, as far as possible, the recommendations of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). A further objective is to contribute to the operational monitoring of the climate and detection of global climatic changes.

EUMETSAT is proud to be contributing to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda through provision of global, accurate, consistent and timely observations of the weather, environment and climate from space and of its involvement in user training and capacity-building projects. The use of its data and products saves lives, prevents economic loss and supports sustainable development and innovation.

spacer 8.2 SDG-2: Zero hunger

EO offers an alternative to traditional survey-based methods for forecasting regional and global crop yield. Managing the health of livestock is one path to that goal. ESA co-founded the VGTropics project, an information system to manage animal health data in data-sparse environments like developing countries in Africa. Livestock survey planning, livestock distribution, data analysis and syndromic surveillance are all supported and facilitated by a satellite network, including satellite navigation, GPS units, satellite-based telecommunication services and satellite EO. Thus, VGTropics works to offset weak capacity in some African countries to conduct diagnostics and gather coordinated information. The commercialisation of VGTropics started at the end of 2015. ESA also contributes to the global Group on Earth Observations Global Agricultural Monitoring (GEOGLAM) initiative started by the G20 Agriculture Ministers in 2011.

8.3 SDG-3: Good health & well being

During the Ebola crisis, ESA supported hospitals through the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters and helped laboratories by providing them with satellite data thanks to an inflatable satellite antenna. This technology facilitated rapid and reliable diagnosis. The so-called B-Life system, developed within ESA’s Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) Integrated Applications Promotions (IAP) programme, was used to support the Ebola treatment centre in N’Zérékoré, a remote area of Guinea. B-Life enabled collaboration in real time between on-the-ground emergency teams and St. Luc’s Hospital in Belgium, allowing for treatment plans to be modified as patient blood samples were analysed. In December 2014, the B-Life service was registered as part of the European Emergency Capacity Response within the European Mechanism for Civil Protection managed by the European Commission.

Figure 1: The 12th EUMETSAT User Forum in Africa in Kigali, Rwanda, involves more than 160 participants from 51 African countries in a workshop atmosphere
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Figure 5: Copernicus services support coastal zone monitoring and management.

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8.4 SDG-4: Quality education

EUMETSAT supports training and capacity-building initiatives in Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

One example is EUMETSAT’s uninterrupted support to a series of highly successful EU-funded capacity building projects (PUMA, AMESD, MESA, GMES & Africa) involving the African Union Commission and regional economic communities in the development of weather, environment and climate information services and an increasingly broad range of applications that are central to sustainable development.

Via its EUMETCast-Africa data broadcast system, EUMETSAT provides access to data from satellites and weather and ocean forecasts information from a variety of sources to more than 550 reception stations deployed across the African continent.

EUMETSAT’s record of effective partnership building and multilateral and bilateral cooperation makes it a trusted partner in capacity-building projects facilitating the use of EO data and the building of sustainable communities, industries and environments.

8.5 SDG-6: Clean water and sanitation

In 2002, ESA worked with UNESCO to launch the TIGER initiative to use EO technology for improved, integrated water resources management in Africa. Exploiting this technology fills existing information gaps for effective and sustainable water-resources management at national-to-regional scales. Guided by its own international steering committee, TIGER received the endorsement of the African Ministerial Council on Water. Today, the TIGER initiative aims to support capacity-building activities and development projects in some 42 African countries. Delegates from 19 African and 10 European countries participated in TIGER’s 2016 workshop held in Addis Ababa.

8.6 SDG-7: Affordable and clean energy

The dependencies between energy, weather and climate are increasing; while the demand for energy remains temperature-dependent, weather now determines the supply of the renewable part of the energy mix. Therefore, weather forecasts influence day-to-day decisions on energy production while climate data are essential inputs for well-informed decisions on strategic investments in the energy sector, in particular on preferred energy sources and production capacity.

Figure 2: Forecast of surface wind field used to guide operations of wind turbines and predict their energy input to power grids.
Source: DWD

Observations from EUMETSAT satellites have a twofold contribution as they increase the performances of weather forecasts and are used to produce climate records of solar radiation parameters that can aid decision-making in relation to solar energy installations.

Figure 3: Map of photovoltaic solar electricity potential based on Meteosat solar irradiance climatology
Source: JRC with inputs from CM SAF

Click for Industry Award: EO Data for Development Case Study >>


8.7 SDG-11: Sustainable cities and communities

Missions like the Copernicus Sentinel satellites provide increased potential to characterise developments at urban scales. With air pollution linked to millions of deaths around the world, it has never been more important to monitor the air we breathe. The Sentinel-5 TROPOMI instrument will be very important to continue the monitoring of our atmosphere by an operational system. Delivering important data on the composition of the atmosphere, Sentinel-5 is set to make a step-change in monitoring and forecasting global air quality. This state-of-the-art instrument will be installed on the polar-orbiting MetOp Second Generation satellite. It will monitor the composition of Earth’s atmosphere globally on a daily basis by measuring trace gases – such as ozone, sulphur dioxide, methane and carbon monoxide – and aerosols that affect air quality and climate.

Figure 4: On 1 April 2014, the GOME-2 instruments on-board MetOp-A and -B observed elevated levels of NO2 total column concentration over parts of Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK

EUMETSAT monitors atmospheric composition from space using its geostationary and polar orbiting satellites, which will in the future carry additional dedicated Sentinel instruments provided by the EU Copernicus programme.

These satellite observations provide key inputs to forecasts of air quality over large urban agglomerations as well as sand and dust storms, in particular in Africa. Public health benefits from the use of this information for regulating traffic or other economic activities and for warning for potential respiratory problems.

In Europe, EUMETSAT data is used by the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), which provides information on air quality, the ozone layer and harmful ultraviolet radiation to users worldwide.

EUMETSAT data and imagery are also used for forecasting dispersion and transport of accidental pollutions and to monitor wildfires and the plumes of aerosols and gases they generate.

8.8 Further SDGs

Satellites have the unique potential for observing systematically and globally 31 of the 50 Essential Climate Variables (ECVs) identified by the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS). Both ESA and EUMETSAT provide significant data in support of SDG-13: Climate action.

For SDG-14: Life below water, EUMETSAT monitors the oceans using its own satellites, Copernicus missions it operates on behalf of the EU and the Jason missions shared with CNES, NASA and NOAA.

The resulting integrated marine data stream provides information about ocean currents, ocean surface wind, sea state, sea ice, sea surface temperature and ocean colour. These data are used directly and ingested in weather and ocean prediction models to provide crucial information for safety at sea, operations of marine infrastructure, fisheries, sustainable use of marine resources and protection of vital marine and coastal ecosystems.

For SDG-15: Life on land, optical imagery can be used to measure the extent of different land cover types and their changes over time, and can be complemented by radar data like those from the Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellites and Japan’s ALOS series. In the context of the Global Forest Observations Initiative (GFOI), ESA contributes to the REDD+ Initiative of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to support the availability of wall-to-wall national coverage of satellite data to provide evidence and accuracy for forest reporting.

8.9 EO industry contributions

Europe has a vibrant value-adding industry that works in novel and creative ways to improve society through the application of EO satellite data. In 2017, the European Association of Remote Sensing Companies (EARSC) decided to focus its 2017 Product Award scheme on how industry might support the SDGs with data from a wide variety of EO sources. The results are the focus of the panel on the pages below.
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spacer spacer Article Contributors

Simonetta Cheli and Isabelle Duvaux-Bechon (ESA)

Paul Counet (EUMETSAT)

Monica Miguel-Lago (European Association of Remote Sensing Companies)

Further Information

ESA SDG activities:

EUMETSAT SDG activities:

European Association of Remote Sensing Companies (EARSC):

VGTropics animal health system:

Group on Earth Observations Global Agricultural Monitoring Initiative (GEOGLAM):

The Global Forest Observations Initiative (GFOI):

B-Life project:

GMES and Africa:

ESA TIGER initiative:


Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service:

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