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Headlines Published on 05 December 2006

Title Joint EU-ESA initiative vital contributor to Kyoto talks in Nairobi

Climate experts from all over the world recently gathered in Nairobi to discuss the future of pollution-combating policy. Assessments of greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere and the land use practices that contribute to them are essential in gauging the success of the Kyoto Protocol. The EU-ESA project Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) provides experts with the data needed to make such estimations.

Deforestation hinders the Earth's natural ability to consume CO2. © Matt+
Deforestation hinders the Earth’s natural ability to consume CO2.
More than six thousand experts from national governments, international organisations and non-governmental organisations came together on the occasion of the second meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP/MOP 2), held in conjunction with the twelfth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 12) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The central topic for discussion proved to be the UN Climate Secretariat’s ‘Greenhouse Gas Data 2006,’ released at the end of October, that contained some mixed messages on environmental progress. It noted that overall, the emission of CO2 declined between 1999-2004, an encouraging sign. However, it goes on to show that that reduction is due to transition economies of eastern and central Europe (emissions from that region declined a staggering 36.8 percent), and not something that can be counted upon to continue in the future. The report’s greatest cause for concern stems from the fact that emissions from industrialised countries grew by 11 percent.

To establish such figures as the increase or decrease of CO2 production caused by human activity, experts rely on Earth observation (EO) satellites to obtain a global perspective on the problem. Fossil fuel consumption is a major source of CO2 emission, but land use practices are also a factor, and thanks to the GMES initiative, experts have the proper tools at their disposal to make such critical measurements.

GSE Forest Monitoring (GSE-FM), which began in February 2003 and is the first of a range of services offered through GMES, integrates the most relevant and recent scientific research and monitoring practices with the latest analytical tools and information technologies aimed at detecting changes in forest area and density. This aids establishing baselines and projections, and estimate averted emissions.

This operational forest and land use monitoring service is provided to the Ministries of Environment and Agriculture in Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Switzerland. Beyond Europe, services are provided for other countries, including Indonesia, South Africa, Uganda and Paraguay, and include the evaluation of Kyoto-authorised Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) afforestation to foster inward investment and sustainable development in developing countries.

ESA was present at the Nairobi summit to highlight GMES’ contribution to activities that support the Protocol, and demonstrate the Commission’s and ESA’s support for systematic global observations for understanding climate change.

A further development in monitoring the Earth was the recent unveiling of GEONETCast by the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), a leading worldwide effort to build a Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS). GMES will contribute to GEONETCast through the space priority contained in the new Research Framework Programme (FP7, 2007-2013).

In a recent statement, Zoran Stancic, GEO co-chair from the European Commission commented on Europe’s dedication to such research. “In Europe, we are extremely pleased with this flagship example of global co-operation in the GEO framework. It has enormous potential for the implementation of European policies in the domain of the environment, climate and sustainable development. We are also proud that the system is based on an existing European system run by EUMETSAT to broadcast weather and environmental data.”

More information:

  • GMES homepage
  • GSE-FM homepage
  • Greenhouse Gas Data 2006
  • GEONETCast homepage
  • GEONETCast - New Global Highway to Broadcast vital Environmental Data

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