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Space data for urban green spaces

Reaching 100 climate-neutral cities by 2030, that is the objective identified by the EC Mission Board for climate-neutral and smart cities. Cities are the place where decarbonisation strategies for energy, transport, buildings, industry, and agriculture coexist and intersect. While cities cover about 3% of the land on Earth, they produce about 72% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. On top of that, cities are growing fast. In Europe, it is estimated that by 2050 almost 85% of Europeans will be living in cities. Therefore, the climate emergency must be tackled within cities. In this seventh session of Space Opportunities for Climate Challenges, we looked at how the urban transition to climate neutrality and the smart city topic can benefit from all sorts of satellite applications.

Within the Space4Cities Initiative, Eurisy aims at raising awareness of available geospatial services for cities. In recent years, the “Smart City” topic has emerged as a major policy area in most European countries, and also the space community has been promoting programmes and activities to foster the use of satellite applications to increase quality of life in cities. In October 2020, Eurisy organised a full-day workshop dedicated to the use of satellite data and services to support cities. The full report is accessible here, for a quick overview visit this link. The Space for Cities Brochure also provides an overview of different examples of satellite applications in urban areas. For more success stories on operational satellite services for cities have a look at our database, or read our publication “Ten Success Stories of Satellite Applications in Cities”.

Monitoring heat islands & optimising urban spaces

The first speaker of the webinar, Otto Fabius, R&D software engineer at Sobolt, talked about various innovations on the intersection of data, artificial intelligence (AI), and sustainable impact, as well as Earth observation (EO) data. Coupled with AI, EO can be used to gather all kinds of useful information on the environment and human landscape and can be used, as an example, to assess the potential for green energy, hence improving climate resilience in cities. The company combines the two technologies in different areas, such as in nature monitoring, but also in urban areas. With regard to the latter, Sobolt monitors heat islands. This phenomenon typically occurs where a densely built urban environment lacks green spaces, and when temperatures rise during spring and summer. Monitoring these areas where heat is trapped, can help urban planners to identify better locations for hospitals, nursing homes, or other places housing vulnerable groups. Finally, Otto also talked about optimising the use of urban spaces. One of the largest unused spaces in cities are rooftops. The most straightforward use of them is to host solar panels. By analysing rooftops and calculating the potential for solar power, Sobolt provides insights on the return of investment, for instance for the development of solar carports.

Air quality & smart infrastructure

Thomas Crone, Downstream Applications Marketing Specialist, presented various projects of the ESA Downstream Gateway. With regard to air quality monitoring, the Air Quality Platform is an educational initiative targeting schools and students to establish their own air monitoring sensors, showcasing how citizens can contribute to keeping an eye on different air quality parameters and what different variations can be observed within the city. The purpose of this platform is to educate students on the importance of air quality and on how satellite data, together with in-situ sensors, can help in mapping air quality. Another example that was showcased is uTRAQ: it combines air quality and weather data for traffic modeling and forecasting. This can help local administrations to understand which areas of a city are worse in terms of air quality. Furthermore, Thomas presented satellite applications to enable smart infrastructure, such as 3D motion monitoring of buildings, landslides, pipelines, bridges, and an ongoing feasibility study around green buildings including thermal imaging to identify heat losses and to assess electrical consumption. For more ideas on the subject, find the open Invitation to Tender: Circular urban life.

Urban vegetation

Antoine Lefebvre, co-founder and CEO of KERMAP, demonstrated how satellite imagery can be a scalable solution. On a local level (at the city scale), he presented the use case of high-resolution vegetation data in Montpelier, France. By mapping both public and private land, the city administration knows exactly its carbon storage capacity. As for the relation between temperature and land cover, the urban heat island effect was a hot topic again. By combining vegetation and temperature data, it becomes possible to distinguish districts according to their vulnerability to heat. This information  can help city planners to set their priorities straight and focus interventions in the  districts where change is most needed. For any city in France, the platform nosvillesvertes.fr provides freely available information on green spaces. A similar project on a global scale, currently for about 25 cities across the world, is Klover. The platform is still under development, but will soon become available. A concrete example of how a city administration can make use of these data was about the subsidies for Parisians for planting trees in their gardens. With the available satellite data, the city was able to find out whether people really planted more trees, and if this really had an effect on the environment.

Funding & Innovation Opportunities

The EU and the Commission provide support to local and regional administrations through a wide range of funding programmes. Among the list of funding calls for local administrations, is the Call for proposals for town-twinning and networks of towns. Although it is not specifically targeting space applications, satellite-based services could be included in the proposals responding to these calls, for example by enabling  GIS mapping or citizen engagement. One forthcoming call, which is targeting directly space data, is the Global Human Settlement Layer in the Copernicus Emergency Management System. The contract aims at collecting new high-quality standardised data about the status of human settlements and their dynamics both in terms of built-up areas and population.

Stay tuned!

With the holiday season coming up we are heading towards our final session on the 7th of July. We close the series with the seasonal topic of sustainable tourism.

In the meantime, join us on the Open Campus networking platform where you will find more information about the previous sessions, including the presentations and recordings.

Tell us more about your space-related innovation! Send us your success story or register for a one minute pitch at the next session.