Fighting climate change with connected forests
Technology can play a big role in supporting businesses by reducing carbon emissions, and it can also help protect nature.
- This article originally appeared on the Vodafone Business Gigabit Thinking blog
A recent study by Nature4Climate estimated forests and nature-based solutions can deliver one-third of the global emissions reductions needed by 2030.
Despite playing a critical role in the fight against climate change by regulating ecosystems and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, primary Rainforest destruction increased 12% from 2019 to 2020 alone, endangering not only the 1.6 billion people that rely on forests for their livelihoods but the whole world.
It’s clear protecting forests and biodiversity must therefore feature on the climate change agenda if we want to build back better.
Tech for trees
In the UK, we are working on a “connected trees” trial with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and Forest Research. The first of its kind in England, the project uses Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) sensors attached to trees in Alice Holt Forest, near Surrey, and Harwood Forest in Northumberland.
The data collected is analysed to assess the impact of temperature, humidity and soil moisture on tree growth and function so scientists can estimate the contribution of the woods to climate change, based on their ability to absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere.
Policymakers can also use this information to inform their work and Defra and Forest Research can increase awareness about what’s happening to our forests and what benefits trees can bring.
Protecting against deforestation
In Romania, we are working with non-profit start-up Rainforest Connection to install devices in Covasna County to monitor trees in real-time and send warning signals to help fight against illegal logging.
The devices, called ‘digital guardians’, can capture sounds from the environment and recognise chainsaws or cars and automatically send out real-time alerts to forest rangers, so they can intervene promptly.
A single device, running on solar panels, has a coverage radius of 1km and can prevent the deforestation of over 3 square kilometres of forest.
Fighting emissions from space
Working with our partner Maxar, we developed a technology to help organisations understand how the trees on their territories can contribute to CO2 reduction in the atmosphere.
The solution works by combining extremely high-resolution satellite pictures with field inventory to estimate the amount of CO2 captured by the trees on the ground.
Being able to access this information is essential as afforestation, reforestation and deforestation are key parameters nations will be required to report on because they have a clear impact on net changes in greenhouse gas emissions1.
Building a better, more sustainable future
I believe that urgent and sustained action is required to address the climate emergency and I am proud of the work we’ve already done, and also how Vodafone has committed to halving our environmental impact by 2025, even as our network grows.
But that’s not enough.
At Vodafone Business, it’s imperative to keep developing solutions that can help our customers and governments around the world make the most of digitalisation in a way that allows them to be profitable and sustainable. That’s why last year we committed to helping our business customers reduce their carbon emissions by a cumulative total of 350 million tonnes globally over 10 years– the equivalent to Italy’s total annual carbon emissions for 2019.
We will do this by protecting forests, making precision farming platforms available all over the world, helping utility companies build the renewable grid of the future, supporting our automotive customers transition to electric, turning factories super-efficient in their operations and buildings truly resilient.
Sustainability is a priority for our customers and climate change is at the top of our agenda. We will keep working with them to make the world not just more productive, but also greener and fairer.
CEO, Vodafone Business