Loch Mullardoch and Loch Affric, Scotland on April 13, 2019 • Ancient glaciers carve the U-shaped valleys strewn across the Scottish Highlands. © 2019, Planet Labs Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Andrew Zolli is Chief Impact Officer at Planet.

Introducing the Planet Explore 2020 Sustainability Summit


The Planet Sustainability Summit will be convening on October 15th as part of the Explore 2020 conference.

In a period of planetary crises and transformational change, the world needs to create pathways to more sustainable futures as never before. Meeting the challenge of climate change, reversing the loss of nature and fulfilling humanity’s needs for a just, healthy and prosperous future were already the 21st century’s defining challenges, even before major disruptions like COVID-19 entered the scene. How will we rise to meet these challenges in the decade to come? What do they mean for the way we organize societies, organizations and communities? And how will we use our best tools and technologies in support of a just transition? 

On Thursday, October 15th, from 9am-4:30pm PST, Planet is convening a group of experts in sustainable development, climate science, finance, philanthropy, conservation, NGOs, public health, along with senior corporate leaders and indigenous leaders, to explore the answers. 

The Sustainability Summit will be part of the Planet Explore 2020 conference, our largest event of the year, which will draw thousands of online participants from a broad array of fields, geographies and disciplines. Participation is free, though registration is required. The Summit will build on many other relevant sessions at the 2020 conference, on issues ranging from sustainable agriculture and combating deforestation to responding to the threats of climate change and wildfire.

We’re thrilled to bring together this group of experts and make this event available to all, for free. Here is the agenda – we hope to see you there!

9:00 am Opening Plenary: A Fireside Chat with Achim Steiner and Dr. Samuel Myers

We’ll open the day in conversation with Achim Steiner, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and one of the UN’s most important leaders, and Dr. Samuel Myers, one of the most influential figures in the field of planetary health. We’ll discuss where we are with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, how COVID is reshaping the global development agenda, and how to think in systemic, ecological and human terms about the sustainable challenges – and opportunities – ahead.
9:30 am Computing the Planet: How Cloud, AI and Remote Sensing Technologies Can Illuminate New Pathways to Sustainable Development

How might we use the most advanced technologies available to understand and foster a more sustainable future? What barriers exist to their development? And how do we ensure that the power of these technologies are made broadly accessible?

In this session, we’ve invited  three leaders on the leading edge of AI and computing, environmental measurement and security, and the design of space technologies to meet societal needs to explore the answers. We’ll hear from Lucas Joppa, Chief Environmental Officer of Microsoft; David Jensen, Head of the Environmental Peacebuilding Programme and MapX, at the UN Environment Programme; and  Danielle Wood, Director of the Space Enabled Program at the MIT Media Lab,.

10:15 am Breakthroughs in Measuring Development and the SDGs

The Sustainable Development Goals are a “moonshot of moonshots” – an agenda encompassing everything from building more resilient infrastructure and de-intensifying agriculture to reducing poverty and advancing public health. Above all, these goals are interconnected – and we can’t hope to achieve them without a revolution in how we efficiently measure development. In this session, we’ll welcome several leaders in the field who will explore how new geospatial measurement technologies might accelerate sustainable progress, including Marshall Burke, Co-Founder, AtlasAI and Associate Professor of Earth System Science at Stanford University, and Vivien Foster, Chief Economist for Infrastructure at the World Bank Group.

11:15 am Monitoring Ecosystems and Protecting Biodiversity from Space

While climate change grabs most of the public’s attention, threats to ecosystems and the loss of nature are equally critical global challenges. Today, humanity has transformed 75% of the land surface of the Earth, while huge fishing fleets, global shipping, pollution and ocean warming combine to decimate ocean habitats. The UN now estimates that more than a million species are at risk of extinction. How can we monitor ecosystems from space, and develop new ways of both inventorying and protecting biodiversity. In this session, you’ll hear about the science of measuring ecosystems and biodiversity remotely,  a pioneering program to map and monitor the world’s coral reefs, and new efforts to make earth systems measurement accessible online. With Greg Asner, Director, Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science, Arizona State University,  Charlie Whiton, Director of Product, Allen Coral Atlas, Vulcan,  David Kroodsma, Director of Research at Global Fishing Watch, Justin Huntington, research professor of Hydrology at the Desert Research Institute, and moderator Tara O’Shea, Director of Planet’s Forests Program.

12:00 pm Using Geospatial Intelligence to Deliver Precision Public Health

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, delivering public health was a challenge, particularly in limited-resource, high-burden, or remote settings. Geospatial intelligence has a powerful supporting role to play, helping to model the spread of disease, monitor emerging risks, and support targeted response and recovery. In this session, we’ll hear from infectious disease experts, spatial epidemiologists and technologists working on the front lines of public health, and how they think geospatial tools can help interrupt the spread of disease, minimize its impacts, and ensure every person is reached. With Jamie Tallant, Associate Vice President of Programs at the End Fund, Anna Winters, founder of Akros, and Hugh Sturrock, founder of Locational.

1:15 pm Making the Invisible Visible: Harnessing The Power of Geospatial Evidence to Drive New Sustainability Narrative

Earth observation data can be a powerful storytelling tool for accelerating sustainable development – providing an independent source of truth for galvanizing and directing action, and reporting the results of interventions. In this session, we’ll hear from organizations on the front-lines. We’ll hear from Jesse Hamlin of the Halo Trust, which is using Planet data to help clear landmines and Erika Uusivuori, of Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA, which is using Planet data to document environmental issues, in conversation with moderator Aparna Singh, on Planet’s business development team.

1:45 pm With, Not For: Inclusively Supporting Indigenous Communities with Appropriate Technology

Indigenous people comprise less than five percent of the world’s population, yet their lands encompass 22% of its surface, which are home to five thousand vibrant cultures and 80% of the planet’s biodiversity. Indigenous guardianship is among the most effective approaches we have for protecting the planet’s vital ecosystems – yet Indigenous rights remain under intense threat every day.  

Technology can help, but to do so, it must be co-developed with indigenous communities, not just for them. In this session, you’ll hear from several leaders who are doing just that, using technology to help indigenous peoples flourish, while also helping them protect and steward their rights, their lands, and the ecosystems of living creatures that inhabit them.

In this session, we’ll hear from Margarita Mora, Managing Director of Partnerships at Nia Tero, Emily Jacobi, Executive Director and Founder of Digital Democracy, Maori leader and activist Tui Shortland, Waorani leader and defender of human rights and nature rights Oswando Nenquimo, and moderator Aarathi Krishnan, a strategic foresight advisor, the United Nations Development Programme and researcher at Harvard University.

2:30p Creating “Big Indicators” for Climate and Sustainability Risk

As a major financial institution noted earlier this year, in future, “climate risk is investment risk.” Without robust climate and sustainability risk measurements, underpinned by real-world observational data, there can be significant hidden risks in firms’ balance sheets, in under-insured assets, or even in a national governments’ credit ratings. High-resolution, high-frequency Earth-observation data will be one key ingredient in developing powerful indicators of such risks–with significant impacts for capital markets and capitalism more generally. In this session, you’ll hear about how organizations are working to build and scale these new indicators, and what that might mean for risk management and sustainable finance. With Matthew Gray, Managing Director, Co-head, Carbon Tracker, Ron Dembo,  Founder, riskthinking.ai, Harun Drogo, Executive Director in the Global Sustainable Finance group at Morgan Stanley, and moderator Lorenzo Bernasconi, Managing Director, Innovative Finance, Rockefeller Foundation. 

3:30 pm Enabling The Sustainable Enterprise 

Sustainable development isn’t just a compliance issue—it’s also a growth opportunity. Organizations that embrace sustainable operations and supply chains create ecological efficiencies, build trust and win. In this session, we’ll hear from organizations who are leading on the journey to greater sustainability, and helping to hold organizations accountable – using satellite imagery, analytics and reporting. Featuring John Mulcahy, Vice President of Sustainability at Georgia Pacific, Glenn Hurowitz, Founder and CEO of Mighty Earth, and moderator Ashley Johnson, Chief Financial Officer of Planet.

We invite you to join us for what promises to be a spectacular day of ideas and dialogue! Learn more about Planet Explore 2020 and register here.