ESA is poised to showcase how satellite data underpins global efforts to avert climate catastrophe at pivotal international talks held in the UK.

This year’s edition of the United Nations climate change conference – COP26 – takes place in Glasgow, Scotland, from 31 October to 12 November.

The summit aims to inspire faster and more ambitious action from the international community to achieve the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C.

As set out in its recently released vision for European space activities, ESA is stepping up its efforts to use space to combat the climate crisis. Over the next 10 years, the agency will make critical contributions to enable society to realise the climate ambitions agreed upon at COP26.

A pivotal moment for climate policy

The summit comes at a decisive moment for global climate action.

It follows the release of a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that revealed both the importance of monitoring long-term environmental changes from space and the urgent need for government measures to dial back planet-warming emissions.

ESA’s Earth observing satellites deliver unprecedented insight into the planet’s evolving environment, including rising sea levels, receding glaciers, atmospheric emissions and deforestation.

The agency makes strong contributions to global assessments of climate change through its Climate Change Initiative, a programme which draws on data from multiple satellite missions to generate global, long-term observations.

This information is used by scientists and policymakers to better understand the changes taking place across the planet.

By visiting ESA at COP26, people will be able explore ESA’s climate data through interactive 3D visualisations, as well as ESA’s freely available Climate from Space app.

Several panel sessions are also planned with European experts from the across the agency’s Climate Change Initiative.

Transforming data into action

On 3 November, as part of Earth Information Day, ESA Climate Change Initiative scientist Michaela Hegglin will deliver a talk on how satellite data supports the Paris Agreement, an international treaty designed to limit global warming and help society adapt to its effects.

Earth observation is playing a key role in enabling the international community to determine the progress made towards the agreement. In addition, space-based observations are helping to guide policy, by delivering information on emissions hotspots and changes to carbon sinks.

Several planned ESA missions that are set to further increase global understanding of the changing environment will also be tackled at the conference

These include the UK-led TRUTHS mission, which will collect measurements of incoming solar radiation and solar radiation reflected from Earth’s surface, traced to an absolute metrological reference. This will be used to improve climate datasets and calibrate observations from other satellites.

On Saturday 6 November at 14:00 GMT, ESA will participate in a live-streamed panel session on using satellites to monitor the health of the world’s forests.

Streamed on the COP26 YouTube channel, the session will discuss ESA’s upcoming Biomass mission, which is set to deliver crucial information on how forests across Earth are changing.

Driving green innovation

As well as enabling the international community to track climate change, space can offer sustainable and commercial solutions for a decarbonised, green economy.

ESA will showcase how space-enabled 5G and 6G connectivity is set to facilitate a wide range of innovative applications including low-emissions autonomous transport solutions and sustainable smart city infrastructure.

The agency is also set to highlight its world-leading downstream business applications programme, which helps business from every area of the economy to develop and commercialise sustainable space-based products and services.