Page content

New capabilities to tackle climate change

Using DIY hardware and citizen sensing to measure changes in air quality in Argentina
In Buenos Aires, UNDP Argentina, powered by its Accelerator Lab, found a way to collect data on air pollution through citizen sensors that has a clear route to impact. The Lab used participatory citizen science and low-cost sensors to build a detailed understanding of differences in air quality across different parts of Buenos Aires. The benefit of using this collective intelligence method is to gather a more granular understanding of where localized hotpots (such as traffic junctions) exceed acceptable levels of pollution. How did they do it? The Lab established a partnership with open-seneca, a worldwide network of citizen science pilots that measures air quality using low-cost sensors. 80 local university students learned to build the air quality sensors at a much lower cost than official sensors. Over a period of seven weeks, 20 volunteer “citizen sensors” collected data about daily changes to air quality around Buenos Aires by carrying the DIY sensors on their bikes. Using the Open-Seneca platform, data was aggregated to produce a city-level visualization of air pollution. This data was shared and discussed with the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development and the city government who continue to work with the Lab to evaluate the feasibility of scaling the citizen science project across the country over the next three years. Learn more here


Sparking digital transformation for small-scale fisherfolks in the Blue Economy of Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.
BlueDIGITAL is a pilot experiment from the UNDP Barbados Accelerator Lab that applies digital tools and solutions to improve segments of the Blue Economy ecosystem and value chains. This pilot is aimed primarily at fisherfolk, but also will involve the government, tourism industry partners and the public as consumers. BlueDIGITAL will provide digitally-enabled solutions that seek to offer specific services through four portals: BlueFish, BlueTrace, BlueData and BlueSeal. BlueFish will lead to improved sales for fisherfolk, allowing them to sell their catch online BlueTrace will create a simple traceability system for fisherfolk, tracing the journey of a fish from ocean to plate and offering direct-to-consumer sales. BlueData will provide data-driven decision-making for governments by improving data collection and will encourage policies promoting sustainability. BlueSeal will enable the private sector to be more responsible and regenerative by developing a nationally verified seal to recognize industry partners who implement sustainability into elements of their operations. BlueSeal will also provide a marketplace feature for fisherfolk, enhancing tourism sector-based access to local, sustainable fish and seafood products. The overall goal of BlueDIGITAL is to reduce the digital divides exposed by COVID-19 by introducing innovative, online measures within sectors of the Blue Economy in the Eastern Caribbean. Learn more here. 

Combining satellite data and crowdsourcing to map open burning in rural communities in Ukraine
Open burning of waste is a widespread practice in Ukraine, with deep roots in culture, the agricultural economy and household habits. Official reports estimate that between 36,000-56,000 fires occur each year with devastating impacts on local air quality, people’s health and the natural balance of ecosystems. To better understand patterns of waste management practices across the country, the UNDP Ukraine Accelerator Lab set out to create an up-to-date map of open burning and composting in rural communities using a combination of open satellite data with GIS and crowdsourcing. Using collective intelligence, they engaged with grassroots groups at all stages of design and implementation, as well as local policy makers. Through open discussions and sharing of data, local organizations had practical discussions about pollution, devised plans to tackle it and began to take action. For example, the Lab crowdsourced the locations of 367 previously unknown composting sites, which were integrated into the data dashboard to allow activists to present feasible options to open burning. The Lab’s work has firmly put the complexity of open burning on the public agenda in Ukraine, and the prototype dashboard has been scaled up into an all-Ukrainian map by the Ukraine Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources and the NGO “CID” to inform its future programs on air quality and disaster risk management. Additionally, a communications campaign “We breathe it in,” was developed by partner agency Isobar that relied heavily on the insights and solutions generated from the exploration and solutions mapping of the Lab. The campaign led to an 82 per cent increase in those who now consider open burning a socially important issue, compared to 48 per cent in the initial survey, and the campaign reached 91 per cent of the target audience. Learn more here

How a GeoAI platform is helping target brick kiln hotspots of air pollution 
India is the second largest producer of bricks in the world, and it has the pollution to show for it. India’s severe air pollution has many culprits, but the brick manufacturing sector contributes to 8 per cent of the air pollution in Delhi and its surrounding districts. Brick kilns also cause soil degradation and groundwater depletion around their locations. Using artificial intelligence and satellite imagery to detect the exact locations of brick kilns, the UNDP India Accelerator Lab in partnership with the University of Nottingham developed the GeoAI platform to identify the kilns and target those needing regulation. After initial research identified 47,000 precise locations of brick kilns, the GeoAI platform demonstrated how environmental non-compliance can be detected from space using AI, as the brick manufacturing units have distinct spatial features that can be detected from satellite imagery. The results flagged non-compliant units in the states of Haryana and Bihar. It is a novel approach for improving regulatory governance in India. For instance, the challenge of monitoring about 9,000 brick kilns in Bihar was brought down to less than 1,000. The GeoAI platform brings together coordinated action from many groups such as regulators, government agencies, civil society and volunteer groups to tackle the complexity around brick manufacturing. Regulators in Punjab and Bihar are adopting this platform: Punjab is rolling out the GeoAI platform in one district and Bihar’s Pollution Control Board is going for a state-wide roll out in almost 9,000 brick kilns. It is the first time AI is used to support environmental regulation in India. Learn more here or watch their video here.

Measuring the mark we leave behind: a new carbon footprint calculator is available in south and eastern Europe
On November 2nd at this year’s COP26, Bosnia and Herzegovina signed a pledge to end deforestation. They committed to the protection of forests through the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forest and Land Use, a commitment to mitigate forest loss and land degradation which exacerbates global warming. While leaders must work together, it is also a vital for citizens to participate. The UNDP Bosnia and Herzegovina Accelerator Lab developed a new tool for individuals and companies to calculate their own carbon footprint. This tool is the first of its kind in South and Eastern Europe and has the potential for implementation in neighboring countries. The tool doesn’t just show you your carbon footprint and leave it at that. Visitors to the site receive advice on how to minimize impact on the environment and climate, and how to offset part of their emissions through investments in afforestation or by contributing to volunteering activities. The platform also works as a digital marketplace that enables interested forest and public companies to sell seedlings, offer planting services and products and maintain and arrange public green spaces country wide. This platform has enabled the planting of close to 10,000 native trees since 15 September, with a particular interest from the private sector – which uses the platform to offset their emissions by, for example, afforesting burnt down natural areas in Bosnia and Herzegovina where a lot of climate change-induced wildfires burn. Individuals who want to mark special events like birthdays and weddings by planting trees in cities where they reside can also do so, and thus offset their individual emissions. Learn more here.

Using remote sensing for a macro view of marine litter pathways in the Philippines
The Pasig River in the Philippines is among one of world’s top plastic polluters, accounting for 21 per cent of the organic waste flow to Manila Bay, 70 per cent of which come from households. Tackling this enormous problem requires determining the scope of it. But when COVID-19 made field visits to collect data near impossible, the UNDP Philippines Accelerator Lab asked, “can existing satellite imagery data provide us with a safe, efficient and accurate method of generating insights on plastic waste production in Metro Manila?” Robust data is needed to better understand waste flow through cross-boundary tributaries that ultimately lead to Manila Bay. Insights from this data can inform better regulation, create policy harmonization and align implementation towards scaled impact and clean-up drives. With support from the government of Japan, the Lab engaged the Japan Manned Space Systems Corporation (JAMSS) to build a remote sensing model to detect plastic litter in the Metro Manila river system using available satellite image data. The Lab could gather a view of the state of the canal and river system around Pasig city from a vantage point of 800 kilometers above. Next, the Accelerator Lab will tap into citizen science to augment the satellite remote sensing data. This will also provide baseline information on how marine plastic disposal occurs in Metro Manila and raise awareness on the ill effects of marine plastic pollution by engaging the citizen researchers. Learn more here