Satellite tech is reducing carbon emissions by 1.5 gigatons a year

Rajeev Suri, Chief Executive Officer at Inmarsat

Satellite technologies are already reducing carbon emissions by 1.5 billion tonnes (or 1.5 gigatons) every year, according to independent research commissioned by Inmarsat from leading consultants at Globant’s Sustainable Business Studio. This is equivalent to almost a third of the entire United States’ carbon emissions in 2021, or emissions of 50 million cars.

What was the main focus of the research?

Demonstrating the possibilities of space tech in the race to Net Zero, the report focuses on three industry sectors: transport & logistics, agriculture, forestry and other land use and  energy systems. Together these account for approximately 60% of global emissions.

If satellite technologies were adopted universally by these industries, the CO2 savings currently being delivered through satellite technologies could almost quadruple to up to 5.5 billion tonnes a year based on current technologies alone, the Globant analysis suggests.

This is equivalent to one-sixth of the total carbon emissions currently estimated as necessary to keep the global temperatures rise below 1.5°C by 2030 – or one-third of that necessary to keep temperature rises below 2°C – underlining the positive impact space technologies could have on the largest single challenge facing the world.

Based on the research, the Globant calculations suggest that the world is currently missing out on up to 4 billion tonnes of potential and immediate CO2 reductions by not taking advantage of the decarbonising abilities of satellite technologies. These technologies enable fuel consumption savings and improved routing in transport, reduced energy use and optimisation in energy and even fire prevention in forestry, among many others.

What were the thoughts of the executives on the report?

Rajeev Suri, Inmarsat CEO, said “Action to address decarbonisation is a priority, & space tech offer a significant source of hope in addressing this challenge. Our report, commissioned from Globant, underlines how space can offer significant carbon emissions savings now & even greater savings in the future – directly contributing to the fight against climate change.

“As world leaders gather shortly for COP27, we offer them the opportunity to look at the role of satellite tech within their decarbonisation strategies & encourage them to work closely with our industry to gather effectively the data we need to make an impactful contribution towards de-risking Earth’s temp rise. At COP27, we look forward to working with the leaders to seize this opportunity, & effect real, lasting change for our planet,” Rajeev added.

Martin Umaran, Co-founder and Chairman for EMEA at Globant, said “As a digitally native company, we’re constantly striving to understand & appreciate the role that disruptive tech play on paramount topics for the greater good such as sustainability and the race to Net Zero.”

“This is why this joint effort with Inmarsat is both thrilling & impactful. At Globant, we’re front runners in sustainability powered by tech, & the synergy with satellite communications tech delivers an unprecedented thought leadership decarbonisation piece as a result.”

What were the findings from the consumer research?

Consumer research conducted for Inmarsat as part of its ‘What on Earth is the value of space?’ initiative found 4/10 people think space can help solve climate change. The findings from the second study in the initiative should be particularly encouraging to this large minority.

That said, satellite tech is by no means the sole solution to climate change. Crucial work on alternative energy sources & new energy storage tech & other remedies needs to continue at full pace. But the savings available from existing space tech can make an immediate impact – helping to potentially buy more time for these additional remedies to be rolled out.

Looking ahead, the Globant report also found that 8.8 gigatons of carbon emissions – equivalent to (23%) of global emissions in 2021, or the emissions per capita of 1.8 billion people – could be saved if the wealth of nascent space-enabled tech that are emerging or set to emerge were widely adopted over the coming years. These include:

  • In maritime, autonomous ships could save 400 million tonnes by reducing fuel consumption
  • In energy, AI-driven energy optimisation for energy transition could save 1.3 gigatons of CO2
  • In aviation, the ESA Iris technology could save 100 million tonnes of carbon if adopted across the aviation industry – with the first aircraft set to fly in early 2023