ESA is advancing the global drive to cut planet-warming emissions by supercharging the development of green digital technologies, according to a panel on space-based business innovation held as part of the COP26 climate talks.

The agency is helping European firms to develop applications that enable sustainable mobility, green energy production and smart city ecosystems.

These efforts are accelerating the transition to a decarbonised economy, according to Rita Rinaldo, head of projects and studies implementation division at ESA’s Directorate of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications.

Several sustainable development initiatives – such as the European Commission’s Green Deal – underline the urgent need for a societal shift to tackle climate change.

Space assets – including telecommunications, navigation and Earth observation satellites – are making critical contributions to the drive to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, according to Rinaldo.

ESA is putting satellite technology to work across the economy, enabling European businesses to devise and commercialise innovative products and services that address key social and environmental challenges.

Several of these firms joined Rinaldo during the panel, including British company EV8 Technologies, which is working to promote the transition to electric vehicles.

As part of this project, the company recently launched a freely available satellite-enabled app – called EV8 Switch – that helps UK drivers to explore the benefits of switching to an electric car.

Other smart mobility activities discussed included shared personalised transport enabled by space-based positioning, as well as internet of things services that keep vehicles constantly connected.

The panel then tackled the use of space technology to facilitate smart city infrastructure, addressing issues such as air pollution, urban sanitation, and water management.

Environmental analytics company Weo discussed how it contributes to climate action by helping to keep cities green.

The company developed a monitoring system that uses imagery from Earth observing satellites to identify individual trees in urban areas, providing information on their health and location.

When constructing or maintaining urban infrastructure, Weo’s platform enables city planners to ensure that tree health and canopy cover is maintained.

Rinaldo said: “As illustrated at COP26, the international community is at a pivotal moment for climate action, and space is part of the solution. ESA is committed to enabling governments and businesses to take advantage satellite technology to enable the transition to a more sustainable economy.

“The agency has supported over 100 companies in the development of applications that support Europe’s green objectives, facilitating decarbonisation in key areas of the economy.”

Organised by ESA and the Knowledge Transfer Network, the panel session took place at the Space and Geospatial Virtual Pavilion for COP26.

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