Norway to supply highly detailed satellite images of world’s rainforests

Source: press release, 27 June 2019

Deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon due to establishment of a cocoa plantation – the type of satellite images, but of a much higher resolution, that Norway intends to buy and offer for free to reveal deforestation (illustration: Global Forest Watch)
Deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon due to establishment of a cocoa plantation – the type of satellite images, but of a much higher resolution, that Norway intends to buy and offer for free to reveal deforestation (illustration: Global Forest Watch)

Norway intends to spend up to USD 50 million USD to purchase high-resolution images of tropical forests. The images will be made freely available for governments, researchers and NGOs all over the world. They will enable the monitoring of deforestation, even on smaller areas. “Insights into changes in the rainforests is crucial for reducing tropical deforestation,” says Norway’s Minister of Climate and Environment Ola Elvestuen.

For over a decade, Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative – NICFI – has supported developing countries’ efforts to reduce deforestation. Tropical deforestation leads to large emissions of greenhouse gases and is a grave threat to the global diversity of plants and animals. Estimates show that preserving forests and improving land management can contribute to one third of all the emission reductions before 2030 that the world needs to be on track to reach the goals set in the Paris Agreement.

Part of NICFI’s forest funding has, for a number of years, given free access to satellite images and analysis that track and measure forest changes and loss. Norway supports Global Forest Watch– GFW – tracks annual changes in global tree cover and publish freely accessible maps around the globe. GFW also release early alerts on deforestation hotspots. Analysis methods developed at University of Maryland has also enabled GFW to separate deforestation of primary forests, extremely important to greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity.

The satellite images used by these service show changes in the forest canopy over relatively large areas. However, they cannot detect illegal logging, or other activity, hidden by the rainforest canopy. Alongside better monitoring to detect forest crimes, NICFI is stepping up the fight against illegal deforestation through Interpol and the UN.

“The continued high deforestation rates are a global crisis of existential proportions,” says Minister Elvestuen. The latest data from Global Forest Watch showed that 2018 was the third worst year for primary tropical forest on record. The world lost an area the size of Belgium, 36,000 square kilometres of primary tropical forest.

“Our aim is to give everyone deeper insights into what is really going on in the forests, and strengthen the hand of those who try to save them,” says Minister Elvestuen.

Norway rewards several tropical forest countries, amongst others Indonesia and Brazil, with payments for reduced greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation.

“With better satellite images it is easier to uncover the reasons behind deforestation, it becomes easier to stop, and it becomes easier to set up good systems to reward countries that manage to curb deforestation,” says Minister Elvestuen.