As the year comes to a close, and COP28 gathers in Dubai, there’s been quite the chatter around climate goals, finicky carbon markets, and new, incoming regulations, such as the European Union Deforestation Regulation. Often paired alongside any conversation around such crucial goals, comes discussion regarding the forests of our planet. You know, those charismatic and often gangly flora that naturally capture and sequester atmospheric carbon in their biomass.
Around the world, it’s been proven how crucial forest protection, afforestation, and reforestation are as essential strategies to mitigating climate change. Some studies, like one proposed by the UN, argue that proper protection of our forests could account for 30% of climate solutions, while the IPBES says nature-based solutions could provide up to 37% of climate mitigation efforts until 2030. The wide range of studies share an essential truth: forests are one of the most cost-effective and scalable opportunities for addressing climate change. Various approaches, including voluntary markets and regulatory mechanisms new and old, are being used to actively drive investments in forests. One tool that’s becoming increasingly crucial for doing so? Remote sensing. Remote sensing can enable better oversight to track effectiveness and impact over time.
Let’s dive in.
Carbon markets, challenges, and emerging deforestation regulations
There’s been a reckoning in the voluntary carbon market over the past year, with some projects not meeting quality standards or yielding the impact they claim. However, while the voluntary carbon market has faced valid critiques, it fundamentally provides a way to value forests in a way that traditional markets do not. It’s essential that companies are setting these ambitious targets and climate goals, and investing in reducing the emissions in their operations first and foremost. As for emissions that are not possible to abate with today’s technologies, we need high-quality projects with clear <span class="term" data-def="What is additionality? A carbon project is additional if the emissions reductions or removals would not have occurred without revenue from the sale of carbon credits. Additionality is intrinsic to the environmental integrity of a carbon project.">additionality</span> that will be sustained into the future.
This is where remote sensing data can help. Remote data and derived models make it possible to look back in time, understand trends in land conversion and ensure that project sites meet requirements before investing in on-the-ground data collection. Additionally, satellite and aerial data makes it possible to track site conditions easily and cost-effectively, thereby enabling teams to quickly respond to unexpected changes or strategically plan for field visits.
Given past concerns over verifiability and impact, regulations have and will continue to play an important role in the protection of forests to reduce emissions. One such regulation is the European Union Deforestation Regulation, or EUDR. The EUDR is a law that mandates companies source (their) soy, cattle, palm oil, wood, cocoa, coffee, and rubber commodities from deforestation-free supply chains. This regulation takes effect at the end of 2024 for large companies, and many organizations are already gathering geolocation data across their suppliers now.
Access to consistent and global data on forest loss and canopy cover will be essential in helping companies monitor compliance at scale, and meet crucially important climate goals.
So, what’s one solution at play? Lens.
How Lens can help
As organizations around the world invest in nature and seek ways to rigorously track impact as part of voluntary markets and regulations alike, Lens makes forest monitoring accessible, with no need for GIS or remote sensing expertise. This is hugely important to ensure insights are actionable.
Though remote imagery and data does not take the place of field-based data collection and community engagement, it can make project diligence and MRV (measurement, reporting, and verification) significantly more efficient and cost-effective. Lens provides access to a range of imagery and data to provide stakeholders with insight into changing forest conditions, which can in turn support more rigorous oversight and better outcomes for protecting and managing forests.
For time-series data, such as canopy cover, carbon, and vegetation vigor, the Analyze tool in Lens makes it easy to see trends such as seasonal patterns, tree growth over time, and timing for unexpected reversal events.
Notes and Reports
Teams using Lens can collaboratively annotate project areas in Lens, with all the data and imagery at your fingertips, then generate reports with one-click. This helps reduce administrative burdens and provides an easy way to share progress with stakeholders and project partners.
Share a link to a project site to engage stakeholders, support storytelling, and build confidence with a visual way to showcase the impact of a project.
Track projects and monitor for reversals from deforestation or natural events like fire or drought or windstorms. Identify problems early, respond swiftly, and monitor for permanence long-term.
Remote sensing technologies have never been more important; they are a powerful tool for forest monitoring in a range of contexts, and make it possible to track the effectiveness of nature-based investments more efficiently. Rigorous standards, regulations, and transparency are essential to ensure that voluntary markets and compliance mechanisms are effectively protecting valuable forest ecosystems across the world.
To wrap it all up: Lens supports transparency for organizations focused on forest protection and responsible management, including:
Data to assess baseline conditions on a project site
Diligence for companies, investors, buyers, and insurers
Visibility regarding project or plot status and compliance confirmation
Optional 3rd party verification with monitoring services
And long-term reversal monitoring to ensure project permanence