COP26 and ESG

selective photography of green leaf plant

Over the past two weeks, COP26 pledges have been coming in, aiming to achieve COP26 goals. These commitments will be dissected and unravelled over the next year to understand which promises are obtainable given available data. This research is crucial for organizations looking to influence policy and spending on a global scale. 

We’re following the COP26 outcomes and surprises closely, and as always, looking at them from a geospatial lens. Which data are used to support these Climate pledges, and how does it relate to the broader context?


When a country or business can remove the same amount of carbon from the atmosphere they create, it is called net-zero.  To reach net-zero globally by the mid-century significant societal shifts need to occur. Indeed, big promises have been made by the financial sector hoping to decarbonize the economy.

Companies and shareholders will be making important decisions on how to adapt and allocate resources to achieve net-zero. To ensure accountability, transparency into net-zero efforts will need to be established. Detailed transition plans, proper disclosure, and ways to measure decarbonization efforts will demonstrate proof of commitments and progress towards net-zero.

blue solar panels on green grass field during daytime

Asset-level information paired with location details and additional data like carbon emission rates will provide investors with more accurate and comprehensive information when making decisions. Contextual information paired with other datasets like a flood or fire risk model offers more information for an investment decision. Context-aware asset-level information is used to support both decarbonization and Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) goals. 

Global Methane Pledge

Methane is 80 times more potent at warming than carbon dioxide. Curbing anthropogenic methane emissions can help limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, which is why over 100 countries pledged to reduce methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030. 

Understanding where significant emissions are coming from and monitoring for changes will be the key to ensuring these commitments are met. Earth observation will continue to play a role in identifying and quantifying methane emission sources. Sentinel-5P, GHGSat, and CAMS, a new satellite constellation announced during COP26, will be instrumental in tracking global methane goals. These satellite platforms help to establish methane emission baselines when looking at asset-level information.

Land Cover and Land Use

Forests and Agriculture make up the majority of land cover and land use discussion at this conference. These are related themes but independent. In Geography, understanding land cover is an established practice and foundational to areas such as flood and fire modelling and site suitability analysis. Land Use describes how humans engage with the land and the intent of the land for human use. 

The fact that forests exist can be objectively measured using satellite data. However, the intent of that forest is something that needs defining. The Declaration on Forest and Land Use endorsers collectively cover 90.76% of the Earth’s forests and have pledged to protect these forests and accelerate their restoration. These are goals that Geographic data will continue to support. 

Agriculture is an established business line in the geo world, and lots of capital is spent understanding the agri-sciences better. Marginal increases in crop production can be objectively measured and understood. However, when Land Use bumps up against Land Cover, shared commitments to both the existing environment and the ongoing need for food security need to be realized. Obligations related to innovation in agriculture are ongoing and funding some of the most novel approaches to food security. 

ESG and COP26

Firms that use Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance criteria to direct and support their investment strategies will be paying close attention to the outcomes of COP26. The agreements and negotiations made during the conference aim to address the needs of both the environment and humanity. The results of COP26 describe the majority of ESG criteria and provide a framework for addressing climate questions. We can measure natural features to get a sense of E, the environment. We can measure human activities and impacts to get a sense of S, social. And we can look through time to determine if the G, governance is demonstrating positive results The next task is how to measure both COP26 and ESG goals.

Thanks to Natalia Domarad for help in writing this post.