Earth Observation

Highlights and images for 8 November 2023

Cape Town, South Africa

Morning 1- GEOWeek 2023 - Photo

The panel presenting the GEO Post-2025 Strategy to the GEO-19 Plenary

Many positive moments characterized the first day of the nineteenth session of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO-19). Trinidad and Tobago was welcomed as a new GEO member, bringing the total number of members to 115 (114 Countries and the European Commission). Eight new Participating Organizations were welcomed, including: Health Solutions Research Inc.; ERATOSTHENES Centre of Excellence; New World Hope Organization; UbuntuNet Alliance for Research and Networking; Jokkolabs Banjul; International Research Centre of Big Data for Sustainable Development Goals; Asia Pacific Space Cooperation Organization; and the International Union for Conservation of Nature. This bring the total number to 153.

Key sessions during the day included: a presentation of the GEO Post-2025 Strategy; a presentation of the Ministerial Declaration and Ministerial Summit Agenda that will be adopted by ministers on Friday 10 November 2023; and introductions to the GEO Global Ecosystems Atlas and the GEO Global Heat Resilience Service.

During opening remarks, South Africa’s Department of Science and Innovation and lead GEO Co-Chair Mmboneni Muofhe said “Earth is talking to us,” through biodiversity loss and extreme weather events everywhere, and stressed that the outcome of not listening can be devastating. Buti Manamela, Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, South Africa, drew attention to how much GEO has strengthened the voices of small island states, the expanded role of the private sector and small and medium enterprises, and the participation of young people, adding that the GEO system was created precisely to foster access, collaboration, and teaming.

Following opening remarks, the GEO-19 agenda and the draft report of GEO-18 were approved without comment.

The Plenary adopted the Post-2025 Strategy for GEO, which includes the following five goals, according to which Members are urged to:

  • co-produce transformative programmes that provide trusted earth intelligence;
  • increase global equity through accessible earth intelligence;
  • integrate new technologies and innovation into earth intelligence services;
  • increase the participation of young people in the development of earth intelligence; and
  • invest in integrated activities to raise awareness and resources for earth intelligence.

In the afternoon, the Plenary was introduced to the Global Ecosystems Atlas, one of two major programmatic efforts that GEO has been leading since GEO-18 and that, in GEO’s words, presents “proof of concept for the Post-2025 Strategy.” Panelists variously described the Atlas as: a “one system speaking one language;” a “heart-rate monitor of the life-support system;” a harmonizing tool which effectively measures our conservation progress; and a key tool to monitor, measure, and manage our biodiversity commitments.

The second programmatic session focused on the GEO Global Heat Resilience Service, which aims to provide every urban area in the world with intelligence on the health risks from exposure to extreme heat, thus contributing to the Early Warnings for All initiative. Numerous participants highlighted the importance of early warning systems, and provided examples of both the impacts and responses to extreme heat. Others underscored persistent problems despite the presence of data and stressed the need to ensure that data reaches the communities it intends to serve and to depoliticize the issue. All agreed on the value of the tool towards reducing the risks from exposure to extreme heat and the important role it can play in reducing the negative impact on communities’ health and local economies.

An evening awards ceremony recognized individual and team contributions to GEO.

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Alejandro Román, General Director of Aerospace Development, Paraguay Space Agency, Paraguay

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The panel during the Opening session, with Yana Gevorgyan, Director, GEO Secretariat, addressing the Plenary

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Lawrence Friedl, Director of Applied Sciences Program, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), US

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Panelists during the session introducing the GEO Global Ecosystems Atlas

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