Source: Group on Earth Observations
Timely, accurate and long-term information is needed to inform the development and implementation of climate adaptation plans. Earth observation (EO) has long had great potential to support these needs. However, in the past, access to affordable data, insufficient historical records, spatial resolution, data bandwidth to access free and open data, computing and analytical costs have constrained practical implementation of EO based solutions. Fortunately, over the last decade, these constraints have been addressed by advances in open data access, cloud computing and free access to analytical tools. But while many of the technical barriers have come down, adoption of EO still lags in low- and middle-income countries.
EO is defined as the gathering of information about the physical, chemical, and biological systems of the planet Earth. EO data is crucial to the climate adaptation process because it provides independent, low-cost information that can be applied to identify and quantify the current state and trends in climate risks to different systems or sectors. EO provides consistent and broad spatial coverage of the Earth’s systems and resources, including locations that may have been rendered inaccessible due to their remoteness and/ or conflict. In addition, it offers the potential to build on measurements on the ground, also called in situ, to observe and measure a wider range of variables.
Terrestrial, atmospheric and ocean EO, coupled with socio-economic data on the exposure and vulnerabilities of the human system, can help society understand the historical, current, and future risks and impacts of climate change and variability. EO information provides governments and other actors with the necessary data to underpin and inform a scientific approach for planning, implementing, and monitoring appropriate adaptation measures, and informs sustainable climate-resilient development. Ultimately, better, more timely information from EO means better, more proactive policies and programs that are more effective in terms of cost and human impact.
Notably, the full and open exchange of data and the use of ground-based and remotely-sensed observations is also critical for comprehensive risk management policies to deal with the risks associated with climate change. These policies involve risk assessment and risk reduction approaches, including the establishment of Early Warning Systems (EWS) to deliver timely, relevant, and accurate progression of hazards. A people-centered EWS comprises four key elements: knowledge of the risks; monitoring, analysis and forecasting of the hazards; communication or dissemination of alerts and warnings; and local capabilities to respond to the warnings received see United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR).
In an increasingly interconnected world facing climate change and other threats, Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems (MHEWS) that cover a range of hazards and impacts are needed. They are designed to be used in multi-hazard contexts where hazardous events may occur simultaneously, cascadingly or cumulatively over time, and taking into account the potential interrelated effects (see World Meteorological Organization (WMO)).
These are all critical elements that EO can support. As such, the establishment of EO-based monitoring systems is essential for adaptation, applicable to observing climate impacts and risks on key sectors, supporting EWS and MHEWS, and monitoring how adaptation actions improve the resilience of a country over time.
Furthermore, EO can support the development of sound adaptation projects. Many climate financing institutions such as the Green Climate Fund (GCF) require those seeking funds to provide a scientific justification for their proposed climate action investments, plans and policies, including climate scenarios and prioritization of adaptation measures, something that is well within the capabilities and applications of EO. These funding institutions also use EO as part of their climate screening tools for such projects, helping them make informed funding decisions.
The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) supports coordinated and open EO to support better decision making and shape more effective global, national, and local climate policies. GEO members and partners lead over 60 joint activities spanning multiple areas Overall, these activities include approximately 7000 data providers and millions of data resources that are free and accessible to all. GEO aims to provide support to Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and other developing countries to identify opportunities offered by EO technology to integrate ground-based and space-based data and information to support the formulation and implementation of National Adaptation Plans (NAPs).
This first edition of the GEO supplementary technical guidelines on NAPs addresses EO solutions to agriculture and food security-related challenges, which will help countries with practical guidance and opportunities to drive the implementation of their adaptation agenda, based on the experience of the GEO Global Agricultural Monitoring (GEOGLAM) initiative. GEOGLAM has successfully co-designed national crop monitoring systems that provide early warnings and trigger disaster risk financing mechanisms, efficiently tackling adaptation and loss and damage with EO methodologies and data embedded in institutional systems in some LDCs.
The target audience for the GEO supplementary technical guidelines on NAPs includes government agencies responsible for agriculture production, planning, statistics, and emergency response, such as Ministries of Agriculture, Environment and Public Safety. It can also support international organizations and NGOs in their response to emerging food security concerns.
While it builds on the 2012 technical guidelines by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) LDC Expert Group (LEG)6 for the formulation of NAPs, the GEO supplementary technical guidelines focus on the technical and institutional resources required for the successful implementation of NAPs.
This first edition will be followed by other sectoral guidelines addressing key issues or themes in the NAP process with the use of EO.