Between the 31st of October, until the 12th of November 2021 (yes, as we speak), our very future is held in the hands of more than 100 world leaders, the big decision-makers in Glasgow, UK for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26).

With an aim to ‘accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’ , the summit’s primary agenda, stated in a recent article by BBC News is said to promise an end and to reverse deforestation by 2030.

The pledge, described by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is a ‘landmark agreement to protect and restore the Earth’s forests.’ Including almost $19.2bn of both public and private funds; many experts – of course – have welcomed the proposition, but along with hundreds and thousands of global activists, they are wary. In 2014, previous promises had ‘failed to slow deforestation at all,’ while in the words of Greta Thunberg, previous COPs ‘Have led nowhere.’


COP26 is not the only campaign with deadlined goals for 2030. Set up in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly, a collection of 17 interlinked Global Goals (officially known as the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs) aim to create a better world by ending poverty, fighting inequality and addressing the urgency of climate change- all by the year 2030. 

Goal 15: Life on Land deals specifically with deforestation: 

  • Target 15.2 proclaims that by 2020, it aims to promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally. 
  • Target 15.3 further goes on to proclaim that by 2030, desertification will be combatted, degraded land and soil will be restored, (including land affected by desertification, drought and floods), all the while a land degradation-neutral world will be aimed for. 
  • Target 15.b further goes on to aim for the mobilization of  significant resources from all sources and at all levels to finance sustainable forest management and provide adequate incentives to developing countries to advance such management, including for conservation and reforestation.

Pretending to take our future seriously

While Prime Minister Boris Johnson, US President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau gathered in Glasgow last night for the biggest diplomatic meeting in Britain in 75 years, environmental activist Greta Thunberg represented the opinion of a vast majority of outsiders in her passionate speech, saying: ‘Inside Cop, there are just politicians and people in power pretending to take our future seriously… No more blah blah blah, no more whatever the f*** they are doing inside there!’ 

Through the voice of Thunberg, telling young protesters that politicians attending COP26 are ‘pretending to take our future seriously,’ it is clear that there is an enormous lack of trust and transparency. The general lack of hope in the bold pledges of COP26 is thus both concerning and detrimental. After all, a large portion of the future (and let’s not forget the vast amount of funding) does indeed lie in the powerful hands of the ultimate decision-makers and attendees of the summit. They have the last say and we are all affected by it.

What is the extent of deforestation in South Africa?

According to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF); between 2001 and 2019, South Africa lost 1.42 million hectares of tree cover, representing a whopping 24 per cent decrease in tree cover since 2000. What is more; from 2002 to 2019, the total area of South Africa’s humid primary forest decreased by 8.3 per cent (South Africa Deforestation Rates & Statistics). This is an unsustainable, and unacceptable rate of deforestation.  

What is more; an analysis of government action measured against the Paris Agreement, has listed South Africa as ‘Insufficient’.

Source:  Climate Action Tracker (CAT) 

Wealthy economies have committed to contributing $100 billion a year to developing countries in order to combat factors contributing towards climate change. As one of the countries that qualifies access to these funds; South Africa needs to show its ambitions to transition to a net-zero economy by 2050. 

South Africa And many countries have a long road to walk towards climate change

Source:  Climate Action Tracker (CAT) 

In his weekly newsletter, President Ramaphosa expressed his commitment to this, stating ‘As a country, we are committed to making our fair contribution to the global climate change effort and have recently set new and more ambitious greenhouse gas emissions targets.’

Unfortunately, however, mounting cynicism and lack of faith in these bold statements persist. Indeed, South Africa still has a long way to go in reducing our carbon emissions. After all, we are the 12th biggest greenhouse gas emitter in the world.

Monitoring planted trees is vital 

Monitoring: Bridging the gap between hope for the future and trust in those who have the ‘last say’

Yes, year after year, summit after summit, campaign after campaign, promises have been made that are not always fulfilled. Or at least that is how it appears to the general public. 

Swift Geospatial is a firm believer in evidence, and we have the ultimate transparency tool in our arsenal. Yes, this tool both verifies what is being done, where it is being implemented and how situations are improving (or worsening) as days, months and years go by. We believe that remote satellite monitoring is the answer that will not only ease the ongoing tension; but will also aid the decision-makers to make, well, better decisions.

What we call the ‘Superhero of geospatial technology’ (read more about this here), remote sensing has the power to both detect and monitor the physical characteristics of a given area. In the field of deforestation; let us enlighten you on how this can help: 

  • Daily and near-real-time monitoring will alert user groups if unusual activity – such as illegal logging – is taking place in a protected area. With security alerts in place; immediate action can be taken before it is too late.
  • The same alert function may also be used for fire detection- whether they are natural or if protected areas are being illegally slash and burned for agricultural purposes. 

In the field of replenishing and rehabilitating these forests, monitoring is a powerful tool used for the overall success for  various tree planting schemes; Swift Geospatial can assist with: 

  • Tracking if the promised tree planting and reforestation is even taking place in any given location as promised- and having a bird’s eye view of the progress thereof.
  • Access to historical imagery can monitor tree canopy growth through time; enabling programs to ascertain the difference any given project is making to the focus areas being worked on. 
  • Monitoring the plant health of any given plantation scheme- an alert system may even be enabled to notify stakeholders of disease before it is seen by the human eye and before it has a chance to spread. 
  • For more detail, read what we are doing for Ecosia (the search engine that plants trees) here.

Satellite monitoring is thus an underestimated, incredibly powerful tool that not only provides evidence of where these generous, astronomical funds are going; but will also inspire funders and donors to be more involved, for the longer term. Most importantly; we need everyone, whether they are presidents, ambassadors, environmentalists, spokespersons, NGO’s or activists – on board and on the same page. 

Monitoring not only provides the evidence, transparency and accountability that is so badly needed; but will also empower decision-makers with clear data as to what is working, and what is not- and thereby informing responsible decisions moving forward.  


Contact us for a free forest monitoring trial. 

Conclusion: moving forward

It is both urgent and paramount for decision-makers to use the technology at hand for the future of our planet. Indeed, satellite monitoring has the potential to save the world, and in the field of deforestation; we believe we hold the silver bullet of the management thereof. We may be so bold as in saying that our survival may very well depend on it. 


Climate Action. February 2021. Climate Change in South Africa: Effects of Deforestation. [ online] . Available at: [Accessed 02 Nov 2021].

Vizzuality (n.d.). South Africa Deforestation Rates & Statistics | GFW. [online] Available at: [Accessed 02 Nov 2021]. (n.d.). Forestry | South African Government. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 02 Nov 2021].