Forest mapping from space supports Kyoto Protocol

November 28, 2003

The official title of the gathering is the Ninth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP 9). It is the latest in a series of UNFCCC meetings where signatories meet to discuss various aspects of implementing the 1997 Kyoto Protocol as well as settling on future actions to come.

ESA is hosting a side event on the evening of Wednesday 3 December at the conference entitled Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) from Space: Support to monitoring and reporting for Kyoto Protocol Annex I countries.

The Kyoto Protocol has only to be ratified by Russia in order to come into force. It charges all developed nations - known as Annex I countries - to monitor and work to reduce their overall carbon dioxide emissions.

A vital part of this is accurately measuring forested areas of their territory. Forests function as reservoirs of carbon, so if countries plant new forests they can gain 'carbon credits' to offset against their emissions. Conversely, extra carbon dioxide is released rapidly into the atmosphere if forests are burnt or cut down.

At the ESA COP 9 side event, ESA Director of Earth Observation José Achache will brief attendees on using space to gather environmental intelligence, and existing national users of ESA services will present their experiences.

ESA commenced working in the area of environmental conventions two years ago, within activity known as Treaty Enforcement Services using Earth Observation (TESEO). One of the projects initiated - named TESEO Carbon - studied the potential of Earth Observation for supporting implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.

Three workshops, known as TUBES, gathered the convention secretariats and the users of the TESEO projects in order to guide and consolidate the work of the projects, which finished at the end of 2002 with a demonstration of some prototype products and recommendations to ESA.

On the basis of these results, another project, Kyoto Inventory, started at the end of last year with the aim of developing and demonstrating at a large scale -full or partial national coverage - information services supporting the national reporting under the Kyoto Protocol for five European countries: Italy, Switzerland, Finland, Norway and the Netherlands.

The first results of this project for selected test sites within the five countries are now ready. In parallel, another project called Forest Monitoring initiated in early 2003 within ESA's programme devoted to Global Monitoring for Environment Security (GMES) services and equally (although not exclusively) addressing information services for the Kyoto Protocol reporting, has produced its first results.

Four users of these last two projects will present at the side event their needs and motivations, what the projects have provided to them so far, their evaluations and their perspectives for the future.

Dimitri Lalas, Director of the National Observatory of Athens, and Deputy Head of the Greek Delegation will commence the briefings, followed by José Romero of the Swiss Agency for the Environment, Forests and Landscape, then Antonio Lumicisi of the Italian Ministry of Environment and Territory, concluding with Joseph Racapé of France's Interministerial Task-Force for Climate Change.

European Space Agency

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