BC3 wraps up a successful international conference on Big Data and Climate Change

Bilbao 13-06-2024 8th International Conference on BIG DATA en Palacio Euskalduna © MITXI

Last week, Bilbao was the centre of attention for more than 200 experts from over 40 countries who gathered for the 8th International Conference on Big Data and Data Science for Official Statistics. From June 10-14, this significant event, organized by the UN’s Statistics Division (UN DESA) in collaboration with BC3, the Basque Government, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the European Union and Cooperation, INE, and EUSTAT, focused on using big data to inform climate change and sustainable development policies.

Key themes and highlights

The conference, titled “Informing the Policies of Climate Change and Sustainable Development with Integrated Data,” centred around three main themes:

  • Climate change and risk assessment
  • Loss of biodiversity
  • Sustainability of tourism and food systems

Throughout the week, attendees engaged in high-level panels, technical sessions, and specialized workshops, sharing knowledge and exploring innovative solutions to global challenges.

“It has been five intense days, with a true gathering of various communities focused on better data and better decision-making. The conversations have been very fruitful, and we hope that significant steps will be taken in the coming months as a result of this conference.” (María José Sanz, Scientific Director, BC3)

Event recap

  • Opening Day: The event kicked off with opening remarks from Ashwell Jenneker (UN Big Data Committee), Kazumi Ogawa (UN-Habitat), María José Sanz (BC3), Elena Manzanera (INE), and Jokin Bildarratz (Basque Government). This was followed by panels featuring experts from Indonesia, Denmark, Slovenia, the World Bank, IMF, Google, and various UN agencies, discussing climate change, biodiversity, and global sustainability challenges.
  • June 11-13: Morning sessions included triple parallel tracks on practical applications of big data, such as its use in maritime transport and citizen science for biodiversity policies. These sessions provided deep dives into how integrated data can address complex problems.
  • June 13 (Noon): The closing session marked the end of the main conference activities, summarizing key takeaways and future directions for big data in climate policy and sustainable development.
  • June 13 (Afternoon) – June 14: The conference concluded with specialized workshops focused on advanced technologies, including mobile data privacy.


The conference highlighted the vital role of the UN regional hubs, which are initiatives by National Statistical Offices (NSOs) aimed at providing capacity-building services and project support to countries in their regions. These hubs are located in Rwanda, UAE, China, Indonesia, and Brazil, with a specialized hub in Bilbao, ARIES for SEEA, hosted by BC3. This year’s focus on climate change and sustainability brought many partners to Bilbao to interact with the ARIES for SEEA hub, aiming to strengthen connections between BC3 and other centres. The event underscored the potential of ARIES for SEEA to make significant contributions both in Europe and globally.

“We have learned a lot at this conference. As environmental modellers, knowledge integration has always been our mission, but we didn’t yet know everything we needed to know about managing the complex dialogue between scientific models – for example, high-resolution geospatial process models – and the needs of statisticians and policymakers. After this conference, we will pay more attention to things that used to be more marginal to us and improve our understanding of results in a way that better serves the policy agenda.” (Ferdinando Villa, Ikerbasque Professor and ARIES Lead Investigator, BC3)

Looking ahead

The conference highlighted the importance of integrating scientific, statistical, and geospatial data to tackle the world’s most pressing issues. The collaboration between public and private sectors, along with academic and research institutes, underscored the need for a paradigm shift towards open synthesis of knowledge for effective decision-making.

“This collaborative approach among the different communities is essential for finding relevant, innovative and fit-for-purpose data solutions while protecting privacy. Furthermore, it’s crucial to work closely with the geospatial community to integrate information and ensure it is ready for policy-making. This integrated effort will enhance our ability to address complex challenges with comprehensive, actionable data.” (Ronald Jansen, Assistant Director, UN Statistics Division)

Thank you

We extend our heartfelt thanks to all speakers and participants for making this conference a success. Your contributions and insights are invaluable as we move forward in our efforts to address climate change and promote sustainable development.

For more details, visit the official website of the 8th International Conference on Big Data and Data Science for Official Statistics, where you can find the presentations, livestream video of the first day, photo album and video testimonials from this five-day gathering.

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María de Maeztu Excellence Unit 2023-2027 Ref. CEX2021-001201-M, funded by MCIN/AEI /10.13039/501100011033

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