ESA results on display at COP27

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Published on 14 November 2022

Achieving net-zero by the second half of the century is considered vital if global temperatures are to remain well below the two degrees rise as set out by the Paris Agreement for climate. From their vantage point in space, satellites provide a unique means of tracking progress towards achieving this balance between greenhouse gas emissions from sources and removal by sinks.
How space-based approaches can support the UN Global stocktake, starting in 2023, are the focus of technical discussions at the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) currently taking place in Sharm El-Sheikh, and feature results from ESA’s trailblazing REgional Carbon Cycle Assessment and Processes project. These results come at a critical time ahead of next week’s ESA Council Meeting at Ministerial Level.

Carbon reporting

Research from the REgional Carbon Cycle Assessment and Processes project (RECCAP-2), led by Philippe Ciais of the Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement (LSCE), is informing global climate policy by constraining the carbon budget – the remaining future emissions available before the warming limits laid out in the Paris Agreement are breached.

The RECCAP-2 research team processed data models of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, together with measurements taken on the ground and from spatial remote sensing, in order to establish a model for carbon dioxide suitable for evaluating national greenhouse gas inventories submitted by countries to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The team modelled the data to show how the gases can move, or ‘flux’, between land and atmosphere, for example when carbon dioxide is absorbed by vegetation, released by wildfires, or transported by rivers.

This newly developed methodology is paving the way for countries to also improve checks and consistency of national greenhouse gas inventories used by the UN to assess collective action towards net zero.

Importantly, the team have used these methods to estimate emissions at a country scale enabling them to compare with national greenhouse gas inventories. In doing so, they provide the ability for countries to check, using independent observations, that they are responsibly delivering on their carbon reduction commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement.

Currently, country estimates of sector-based activity are used to compile their national greenhouse gas reports, combining activity statistics with emission factors. These estimates are periodically submitted to the UN and are used to assess collective progress as part of the UN Global Stocktake.

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