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Space data joins the battle against greenwashing

  • ESG rules needed in region
  • Space data easily verified
  • Cop28 hosts space pavilion

Space data is a vital tool for measuring decarbonisation and preventing greenwashing, an industry expert has told AGBI at the Cop28 conference in Dubai.

“There is no other way to monitor [decarbonisation and carbon credits] at that scale if it wasn’t for Earth observation data,” said David Merren, assistant director for analytics and spatial at Deloitte. 

“The best thing about Earth observation data is that it can be taken by other entities and verified, so we can avoid greenwashing scandals that are massively on the radar of a lot of companies, especially in the region,” he added.

Most of the demand for space data in the Middle East comes from government agencies and giga-projects. 

“The environment agency in Abu Dhabi commissions a biodiversity and mapping survey every year that uses Earth observation data,” Merren said. 

“From business, we are finding a huge amount of demand from giga-projects,” he added. Neom has a total planned area of 26,500 sq km, so “will not be able to monitor through ground observation because of the amount of space they have”.

Merren also pointed to the lack of regulations requiring companies in the Gulf to report on environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG), suggesting it is slowing the growth of the region’s space data sector. 

“New regulations in the EU require roughly 50,000 more companies reporting on their ESG impact. Within the region, only companies listed on ADX need to report on that, but other companies don’t. And without that regulatory requirement to report, companies won’t spend the extra money to do that,” he said.

Another challenge is a skills shortage. According to Amar Vora, head of space at Serco Middle East, governments, businesses and academia need to take a more collaborative approach to ensure there are enough skilled workers for the sector to grow in the long term.

At Cop28, UAE satellite communications company Yahsat signed an agreement with global emissions monitoring organisation GHGSat to provide methane monitoring services to Abu Dhabi oil giant Adnoc. 

“Methane emissions is one of the increasingly adopted use cases of space-based remote sensing data. This can support the oil and gas industry and governments to ensure any methane emission leaks are actively acted upon,” Vora said.

Given that an average person interacts with 47 satellites every day, the space sector is becoming increasingly prominent. 

“The fact that this is the first Cop to have a platform for space is an achievement in its own right,” Vora added. 

How much is a flight ticket to outer space? Watch the full video to find out and learn more about space tourism.

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