Adoption and Impact of Earth Observation for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

This report was commissioned by the European Space Agency (ESA). ESA is an intergovernmental organisation of 22-member states whose mission is to “shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space continues to deliver benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world”.

Since 2010, ESA has been working with various International Financial Institutions (IFIs)—including World Bank (WB), Asian Development Bank (ADB), European Investment Bank (EIB), Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the Global Environment Facility (GEF)—through the ESA Directorate of Earth Observation Programmes (EOP) and, specifically, through the Earth Observation for Sustainable Development (EO4SD) initiative.2 EO4SD’s objective was to promote the integration of satellite information products and services, as best- practice environmental information, in the planning and implementation of IFI development activities together with their respective developing country partners. 

ESA is preparing a new joint initiative in partnership with WB & ADB, “Space in Support of International Development Assistance” (Space for IDA), in 2020. This initiative will extend and expand the efforts of EO4SD with a mission to “Realise the full potential impact of environmental information from satellites in addressing core development challenges through transfer and mainstreaming into development assistance operations, activities and financing”. 

This report aims to capture and communicate the evidence of the use cases and impact of Earth Observation (EO) in sustainable development for select sectors including agriculture, forestry, disaster resilience, urban development and climate resilience. 

Qualitative Review of Impact Evidence in Developing Countries by Use Case and Sector

The impact findings are primarily drawn from practical case examples in public domain literature and also based on interviews. The literature review used in this report prioritises evidence on EO use cases and impact for developing countries. However, in some areas limited information is available, and accordingly, examples from developed countries are used as needed. 

The research findings within this report are expected to be of value to organisations in the development community who are interested in learning about the various use cases and impacts of integrating EO to advance their development. The audience is donors, IFIs, developing countries, national space agencies, and the broader development community e.g. NGOs. Whilst there are benefits arising from other aspects of space capabilities to the field of sustainable development (e.g., satellite communications (SatComms), global navigation satellite system (GNSS), space weather/meteorology), this report focuses on benefits arising from using EO as a unique and powerful source of environmental information.