By Gary Thomas
The role of Earth observation for sustainable development was analyzed during the Rio+20 Summit, a three-day conference held in Brazil.
Land degradation in central Sudan
A blueprint to ensure environmental protection, reconsider economic growth and advance social equity was accepted in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Now, after 20 years, members from governments, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and other stakeholders gathered at the Rio+20 Summit in Brazil to assess the progress being made in the last 20 years.
ESA organized a side event during the summit to emphasize the importance of observing the Earth from space and to show how Earth observation improves monitoring and assessment of biodiversity, climate change and land degradation variables.
Earth observation satellites account for affordable, reliable and efficient monitoring of the planet from international to local scales, and most of the time, it is the only way to get information on vital environmental variables. The large amount of data gathered from over 30 years of observations through satellite gives a detailed view of the unstable physical characteristics of the surface of the Earth.
The Rio Convention bodies, which include the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), have now recognized the contributions that Earth observations can bring in to environmental monitoring.
Delegates from all three Conventions reemphasized during the side event that the Earth observation data collection need to be maintained. ESA is planning to supply operations data delivery to all three Conventions and to other applications with the future Sentinel family of satellites.
The Rio+20 Declaration emphasized the requirement for a regular review of Earth’s changing environment and access to timely and reliable data in areas of sustainable development at the closing of the summit.