Bali, Indonesia, 12 December 2007 – The role of Earth Observation (EO) satellites in combating climate change is being highlighted at the United Nations climate change conference where thousands of delegates from more than 180 countries are gathered to begin negotiations of an international emissions-cutting agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, whose first commitment period ends in 2012.
Because deforestation in tropical rainforests accounts for as much as 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, finding ways to curb or halt deforestation is high on the conference’s agenda. One scheme under consideration, called Reduced Emissions from Deforestation in Developing Countries (REDD), involves developed countries offsetting their emissions by paying developing countries for every hectare of forest they do not cut down. In order for the carbon-accounting scheme to work, systematic monitoring of forests is crucial, with tropical deforestation as a major contributor.
As a part of this conference ESA showcased at the conference its Kyoto-supporting services, such as two REDD case studies set up to help policy makers come up with feasible compensation mechanisms for Bolivia and Cameroon. Also ESA hosted a special side event, ‘Space supporting UNFCCC – global products for a better understanding of our climate,’ which covered global aspects for monitoring essential climate-variables (ECV) and sought to illustrate EO as a feasible and practical tool for climate change observation. With support from ESA, the Global Observation of Forest and Land Cover Dynamics (GOFC-GOLD) and the Joint Research Centre (JRC) presented their REDD sourcebook providing guidelines for implementation mechanisms.
According to ESU, better tools from space to monitor tropical deforestation will be available in future through the EU-led initiative Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES), which from 2011 will begin launching the Sentinel satellites that will enable operational monitoring.