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enviroLENS Newsletter #3
Welcome to the third edition of the enviroLENS Newsletter. As the COVID-19 pandemic shaped our reality and consequent measures affected all of us, we hope that you and your families stayed safe and healthy. In most countries, the situation seems to be calming down. As we look for ways to continue with our activities adapting to the new circumstances, we hope you will enjoy our news. 

In this issue, we invite you to read the opinion piece prepared by Li Ning from IUCN's Environmental Law Centre, one of our consortium partners, pondering about ways that satellite technology, big data analysis, and machine learning can help us bring forward the transformational change called for in the environmental sector. Kindly check the updates related to the six potential cases we are working on, to illustrate the potential of the eLENS Portal. We are also sharing several reports, such as the Essential Variables List, Data Warehouse report, and eLENS Demo EO Services Design.

For those of you that joined us recently, welcome! enviroLENS is responding to the demands of the jurisdictional sector for ready-to-access evidence and scenario information on environmental situations. Our mission is to facilitate the utilization of European satellite capacities provided by Copernicus for environmental law enforcement and related cross-cutting sectors. 

We thank you for joining us on this journey and hope that you will enjoy it as much as we do! 

Best regards,
The enviroLENS team


Space lens for transformational change

By Ning Li, IUCN’s Environmental Law Centre Programme Coordinator

SpaceX has made numerous eyebrow-raising headlines in the past 10-15 years - that does not look likely to change in 2020. In January, Scientific America reported that it might have broken the U.S National Environmental Policy Act through the Starlinks project. The growth and success of SpaceX, a revolutionary company, is naturally exposed to both doubt and criticism. Still, none can deny its achievements and the transformational change it has brought to the development of space technology and services.
Transformational change is not only expected to occur in the commercial world. It has also become a buzzword in the non-profit sector. UNDP’s report defines it as “the process whereby positive development results are achieved and sustained over time by institutionalising policies, programmes, and projects within national strategies.”

Now, when it comes to global environmental protection in the past 100 years, a transformational change can be traced back to the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment, which marked the beginning of a new era that recognises environmental issues as a global concern. Since then, we have seen the rapid development of a new branch of law: the environmental one.  It aims to ensure a safe and sustained human development, without undue cost to nature.
Another transformational push came in 1992 with the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, and the resulting Rio Declaration with its 27 principles. Some of these principles became recognised legal principles and procedures, translated into national laws and regulations, which substantively contribute to effective environmental governance globally.
The number of international, supranational, national, and subnational environmental laws and regulations has proliferated in the past few decades. ECOLEX-the gateway to environmental law has a record of over 2100 treaties and over 156,000 national legislation concerning the environment. Indeed, basic legal frameworks for environmental conservation are in place, but their implementation is the bottleneck we need to surpass to achieve transformational change. This is also recognised in the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services released by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) in 2019. In this unprecedented report, which involved about 150 scientists and an extensive review of approximately 15,000 publications, five overarching types of management interventions or levers for transformational changes were proposed. One of them reads “improve the implementation and enforcement of existing environmental policies and regulations. “
Earth observation supporting environmental law
Effective implementation of environmental law has been supported by traditional approaches, such as awareness-raising, capacity building, dialogues, etc. In recent years, new technologies have been introduced and applied, such as satellite monitoring. Earth observation technology has been used to monitor the implementation of multilateral environmental agreements such as the World Heritage Convention, the Convention of Biological Diversity, Ramsar Convention, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. International and some national courts have used satellite imagery as a supporting means of proof. New platforms such as the global fishing watch are taking advantage of the power of satellite technology to provide near real-life monitoring of global fishing operations. A missing point though seems to be a link between geospatial information and policy and legal information. A bridge that could integrate separate sectors, bringing us the long-awaited transformational change by assisting environmental governance decision-makers.

It is encouraging to see that one initiative is making its way to create a truly integrated system combining both domains. enviroLENS,  a Horizon 2020 innovation project funded by the European Commission, aims to demonstrate and promote the use of Earth Observation (EO) as direct evidence for environmental law compliance and enforcement. By using European satellite capacities, such as those provided by Copernicus, enviroLENS responds to the demands of the environmental legal sector in the context of evidence-based decision-making processes. It explores the technical potential to link satellite imagery, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and law to develop cost-effective means for legal evidence collection and monitoring of compliance.

On one platform, enviroLENS will offer three tools. Users will be able to find relevant laws and regulations concerning a specific geographic area and issue via the legislation discovery tool. The exploration tool will provide an overview of a situation by directly comparing earth observation data of two different timestamps in a user-friendly environment. The alert and monitoring service will use the EU Copernicus capacities and will provide high-quality change detection information on land use and land cover for effective and efficient environmental protection.  Apart from the Copernicus capacities, the alert and monitoring service will integrate very high-resolution datasets, allowing for the detection of local events on a small scale. These tools are being tested in multiple use-cases for its prototype development, including protection of key bird habitat in Montenegro, deforestation and forest management in Armenia, and Lamu Port construction in Kenya.

The success of enviroLENS might be seen as a small step when considering a transformational change for environmental compliance and implementation, but an important one to catalyse technological revolution that could lead to such a change at the end. Seeing how SpaceX has rocked the space industry, we have a reason to believe that satellite technology, together with big data analysis, machine learning and other tools can help us observe and better protect the planet we live on. With committed will and joint actions, we shall be on the right track.  

European satellite capacities for law enforcement support

enviroLENS combines components from the corporate and legal sectors with Earth observation based services to support evidence-based decision-making in the environmental domain.
Learn more about enviroLENS

enviroLENS on the ground 

We have described six potential cases to illustrate the potential of the eLENS Portal, an advanced information system uniting Earth observation with the environmental law and legal domain. Mobilising national and local partners we are looking into situations that deal with different environmental issues, as we test and validate the portal's functionalities. Read more about each of the cases and don't hesitate to contact us if interested how successful we are!  
Which essential variables are we working with? How can they help us?
Check our description of the processing chains developed for the demonstration sites
Data Warehouse: which Earth observation data will we use and how much?

Upcoming events

Upcoming events are mostly canceled or postponed in view of the current pandemic. Stay tuned for updates.
Copyright © 2020 enviroLENS, All rights reserved.

The enviroLENS project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under grant agreement No 821918.

The sole responsibility for any error or omissions lies with the editor. The content does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the European Commission. The European Commission is also not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained herein.

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GeoVille Information Systems and Data Processing GmbH · Sparkassenplatz 2 · Innsbruck 6020 · Austria

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