Copernicus Sentinel-2 is supporting a data-driven transformation for the financial sector that will accelerate green economic development in Europe and beyond.
Imagery from the mission is contributing to a new initiative that aims to produce comprehensive, open datasets combining information on the ownership and location of industrial facilities with the risks they pose to the environment.
This will enable investors, regulators and governments to price in environmental externalities and funnel capital towards more sustainable and resilient enterprises.
Advancing the responsible management of carbon intensive industries – such as energy generation, agriculture, manufacturing, and construction – will be key to achieve the ambitious climate targets set out by the international community.
However, current data on the environmental impact of industrial sites is often patchy, unreliable and hard to access, making it difficult for investors to take informed decisions.
To tackle this challenge, an UK-based collaboration of experts – called the Spatial Finance Initiative – is working to unleash the enormous potential of Earth observation data and machine learning techniques, transforming the availability of information in the financial system.
The initiative aims to produce asset-level data that will serve as a fundamental building block for investors, regulators and civil society to understand environmental risks, impacts and opportunities in a more granular and bottom-up way.
The ambition of the first phase of the project is to improve global information within the steel and cement industries.
The production of cement – often referred to as the ‘glue of progress’ in the construction industry – involves heating raw materials to very high temperatures, which results in the release of large amounts of carbon dioxide.
As part of a new study, scientists drew on imagery delivered by Sentinel-2 of the EU’s Copernicus Programme to develop a dataset that reveals the locations of cement production facilities around the world. Data from the WorldView constellation and the US-led Landsat missions were also used in the research.
The project – which focused initially on identifying facilities in China – consisted of a series of machine learning experiments.
First, a training dataset was developed using open-source information and existing datasets on cement facilities. Then, the data from the three missions was used to create thousands of images covering the study area, known as chips.
Finally, several experiments were completed using these chips to test out a number of deep learning architectures designed to spot cement production plants.
These tests demonstrated that, by combining Copernicus Seninel-2 data with machine learning methods, production facilities can be identified with a high-level accuracy.
The researchers also developed a method by which Copernicus Sentinel-2 data helps to pick out the wider area containing a cement plant, before higher resolution WorldView data are used to pinpoint its exact location.
The Copernicus Sentinel-2 machine learning model was then deployed over the whole of China, creating a map which included 442 production plants. The map also drew on data from other sources to detail key infrastructure, such as transport links and watercourses.
This information feeds into a larger global dataset of more than 3,000 cement facilities, which account for about 90% of cement production capacity around the world. As well as information on location, this dataset includes other parameters, such as plant and production type, production capacity, the year production first started and ownership details.
The study was completed as part of the GeoAsset project, which is part of the Spatial Finance Initiative.
It was supported by the Satellite Applications Catapult, the University of Oxford, the Alan Turing Institute and Astraea Inc.
About the Copernicus Sentinels
The Copernicus Sentinels are a fleet of dedicated EU-owned satellites, designed to deliver the wealth of data and imagery that are central to the European Union's Copernicus environmental programme.
The European Commission leads and coordinates this programme, to improve the management of the environment, safeguarding lives every day. ESA is in charge of the space component, responsible for developing the family of Copernicus Sentinel satellites on behalf of the European Union and ensuring the flow of data for the Copernicus services, while the operations of the Copernicus Sentinels have been entrusted to ESA and EUMETSAT.
Did you know that?
Earth observation data from the Copernicus Sentinel satellites are fed into the Copernicus Services. First launched in 2012 with the Land Monitoring and Emergency Management services, these services provide free and open support, in six different thematic areas.
The Copernicus Land Monitoring Service (CLMS) provides geographical information on land cover and its changes, land use, vegetation state, water cycle and Earth's surface energy variables to a broad range of users in Europe and across the World, in the field of environmental terrestrial applications.
It supports applications in a variety of domains such as spatial and urban planning, forest management, water management, agriculture and food security, nature conservation and restoration, rural development, ecosystem accounting and mitigation/adaptation to climate change.
Spatial Finance Initiative, Geoasset Project, https://www.cgfi.ac.uk/spatial-finance-initiative/geoasset-project/
C. Rossi et al., "Detection and Characterisation of Pollutant Assets with AI and EO to Prioritise Green Investments: The Geoasset Framework," IGARSS 2022 - 2022 IEEE International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium, 2022, pp. 7717-7720, doi: 10.1109/IGARSS46834.2022.9883772