On Saturday 11 November 2017, the SWOS team, together with the LIFE Peat Restore project team, organised the side event “Wetlands, Peatlands and Satellites” at the European pavilion at the UNFCCC COP23. The event included speakers from the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, NABU, German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN), European Committee of the Regions (CoR), Jena-Optronik GmbH, RSS – Remote Sensing Solutions and the University of Bonn.
The side event introduced the Satellite-based Wetland Observation Service (SWOS) with its free tools and portals for wetland/peatland monitoring and services for reporting obligations like SDG 6.6.1 and those under Ramsar. It informed attendees about wetland/peatland frameworks, Ramsar priorities for peatlands and how the Project “Peatland Restore” will provide valuable estimations to national decision makers on how much greenhouse gas emissions can be mitigated under different scenarios. It was underlined that wetlands give us ecosystem services for free and SWOS delivers infrastructure for monitoring conditions of wetlands providing a basis for decision making and actions.
Participants of the side event discussed the satellite-based mapping and monitoring capabilities for wetland and peatland ecosystems and requested access to the SWOS methodologies and tools together with training and capacity building. A key message from the side event was that while the potential of Earth Observations (EO) is huge, stronger collaboration is needed and countries and users need to be supported through capacity building and clear guidelines on the use of EO methods and tools. Initiatives like the Global Peatlands Initiative and GEO-Wetlands can provide frameworks for cooperation and at the same time engage with important stakeholders like the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands or stakeholders of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The important role of wetlands and specifically peatlands in the global carbon budget was stressed throughout the whole of COP23. This event contributed to the discussions by specifically highlighting the role of satellite-based observations, clearly showing their potential and new monitoring opportunities provided by the Copernicus Programme but also pointing out the challenges and limitations of this technology.
On Friday 17 Nov. 2017 Kathrin Weise, the project coordinator of SWOS, had the opportunity for a background talk with Anja Siegesmund, the Minister for Environment of Thuringia, a German federal state, on the famous “Green Sofa” in front of the German pavilion.
Ms. Siegesmund and Ms. Weise talked about how Thuringia could benefit from SWOS developments locally, such as monitoring of local natural and artificial wetlands or the organization of renaturation measures, for example via the rewetting of peat and wetland areas.
Another topic of the conversation was how Thuringia and the Minister could support the outreach of SWOS and the acquisition of long term funds for long term availability of satellite-based technologies and tools after the lifetime of SWOS.