The overarching objective of SDGs-EYES is to improve the quality and representativeness of indicators for three interconnected SDGs, demonstrating the potential of Copernicus and other Earth Observation data, tools and platforms, and also providing information on whether such improvements are driven by changes in the input datasets, and/or by the use of a more advanced, accurate and reliable methodology.
The project builds upon the definitions of the EU and UN indicators and targets.
SDG13 - Climate Action
Indicator addressed (EU): “Net Green-house Gas emissions from the LULUFC sector”
In April 2021, the European Union (EU) finalized an agreement regarding the European Climate Law. It establishes a comprehensive framework for climate-related actions, outlining the strategies necessary to attain climate neutrality within the EU by the year 2050. Furthermore, the law intensifies the EU’s climate ambitions for the year 2030 of reducing net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 55% during that period. One key sector contributing to the achievement of the net zero emissions objective is the Land Use, Land Use Change, and Forestry (LULUCF).
The objective of the SDGs-EYES approach is to enhance the estimates’ accuracy of GHG emissions from forest fires, part of LULUCF-related emissions, using data obtained from Earth Observation. In particular,
- Copernicus Land Monitoring Service (CLMS)
- Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S)
- Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS)
- Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS)
- Copernicus space component
Leveraging the Copernicus program allows to establish a novel workflow that facilitates the automated, and potentially real-time, calculation of GHG emissions from forest fires based on information on burnt area, forest type, pre- (and possibly post-)existing biomass and scorch height based on physical variables.
Indicator addressed (EU): “Mean near surface temperature deviation”
As outlined in the Paris Agreement, the international community, including the EU, is committed towards keeping the average global temperature increase below 1.5°C. This is usually measured as the deviation of multi-year (at least 30 years are considered in climatological studies) global temperature with respect to a “pre-industrial” period between 1850-1899 (beginning of instrumental temperature records). The currently adopted EU indicator, however, is annualised for the whole European territory and does not take into account how different countries and sub-national territories, especially the complex urban contexts, behave.
The SDGs-EYES approach is based on the need to understand which, among a plethora of already existing alternative indicators, can best represent the risks (due not only to climate hazards but also to exposure and vulnerability) behind the UN SDG target of interest, aiming at strengthening resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters. The novelty of the approach is based on three main pillars: the data adopted as input, the indicator elaborations, and the expected outputs. In terms of data, especially the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) and Copernicus Land Monitoring Service (CLMS) will be exploited.
Indicator addressed (UN): “Number of deaths, missing persons and directly affected persons attributed to disasters per 100,000 population”
Climate security refers to climate-related events, either slow (sea level rise, droughts) or rapid (floods, high winds), that amplify existing risks to society and threaten the security of people, critical infrastructure, the economy or ecosystems. The complexity and multidisciplinary nature of climate hazards and their impacts cannot be captured by a single SDG, but rather by a combination. Therefore, at the moment there is not an unique indicator and the SDGs-EYES’ aim is to provide a scientific, technical and operational workflow for the calculation of an indicator that will enable the assessment and monitoring of the climate-security nexus with the critical use of EO data.
The SDGs-EYES approach proposes a novel indicator that serves as a “cross-goals” indicator, in terms of a metric that represents different facades of sustainable development that are currently spread over multiple SDGs. Today, this UN SDG indicator 13.1.1 is not monitored by EUROSTAT but only at the UN level.
SDG14 - Life below water
Indicator addressed (EU): “Global mean seawater surface acidity”
Ocean acidification, defined as a decrease in the pH of seawater over time, is thought to be a direct cause of the uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The assessment of acidification conditions requires the integration of physical and biogeochemical data produced by different monitoring services operating at different spatio-temporal scales. All this information requires appropriate data workflow management for its correct integration and successful provision of consistent environmental metrics.
The SDGs-EYES approach will use the biogeochemical data produced by the North West Shelf – Monitoring Forecasting Centre (NWS-MFC) of the Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service (CMEMS) to extract the information on pH. As a downstream product, ocean acidity will be made available in terms of both pH and hydrogen ion (H+) concentration, allowing the user to select reference periods over which temporal changes will be evaluated.
Indicator addressed (EU): “Marine waters affected by eutrophication”
One of the major pressures on coastal environments is eutrophication, which results from excessive land-based nutrient inputs (mainly phosphorus and nitrogen) from anthropogenic sources such as agricultural run-off and domestic wastewater discharges. The Coastal Eutrophication Potential Indicators (ICEPs) are based on total riverine loads of nitrate and phosphate (from discrete sampling) and spatio-temporal variability of chlorophyll-a (from satellites). At present, all these variables are mainly based on in situ measurements.
The SDGs-EYES approach allows marine eutrophication to be assessed by applying the EU metric to the Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service (CMEMS) datasets provided by the North West Shelf – Monitoring Forecasting Centre (numerical model reanalysis) and the Ocean Colour Thematic Assembly Centre (satellite observations). These data will be tailored over the study area, maintaining the maximum spatial and temporal resolution available.
SDG15 - Life on land
Indicator addressed (EU): “Share of forest area”
Forests contribute to carbon balance, clean the air (SDG3), regulate the water cycle and related processes (purification, runoff, erosion) (SDG6; SDG15), and have a cultural value (SDG11). The forest dynamics are highly connected with agricultural productivity and food security, likelihood, incomes and land rights (SDG1, SDG2), especially in developing countries. By implementing responsible forestry practices, conserving biodiversity and enhancing ecosystem services, the long-term health and resilience of forests can be ensured, contributing to the protection of terrestrial ecosystems and the sustainable use of land resources.
The methodology to monitor, as SDG indicator, the share of forest area is generally consistent and reliable both at the UN and EU levels. However, there are still some critical issues, such as the difficulty of retrieving forest data in some geographical areas, the frequency of calculation of this indicator, the timeliness of its release, and its cross-consistency among countries.
The SDGs-EYES project proposes an approach to address this challenge and aims to monitor forest areas, in alignment with the FAO forest definition, based on Earth Observation datasets with global coverage and high update frequency, such as the products from Copernicus Land Monitoring Service (CLMS), Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS), Copernicus space component (Sentinel imagery), and machine learning techniques in particular to distinguish causes of deforestation.
Indicator addressed (EU): “Estimated soil erosion by water – area affected by severe erosion rate”
Soil erosion by water is a major problem worldwide. It is one of the leading causes of land degradation and is exacerbated by climate change in some areas. Soil erosion causes serious environmental, agricultural and safety problems and impacts socio-economic activities. Moreover, it influences the capacity of soil to absorb CO2 and has impacts on eutrophication (SDG14) and soil and water quality (SDG6), having also consequences on human health (SDG3).
Consequently, monitoring soil erosion is highly necessary to support civil protection, land planning, climate change adaptation and various economic sectors. The JRC’s approach based on the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) provides a standard methodology to calculate soil erosion by water consistently across countries and over time by retrieving and utilising pan-European datasets in a harmonised way. The SGDs-EYES project allows estimating soil erosion by water in line with the EU indicator while untapping the potential for improvements, such as the spatial resolution of soil erosion maps, the update frequency of these maps and the timeliness of their release. To this aim, products from Copernicus Land Monitoring Service (CLMS), Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS), Copernicus space component (Sentinel imagery) and Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) will be exploited.