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|KYOTO-INVENTORY: ESA presents space solution on deforestation issues at Montreal conference
|ESA and its national collaborators presented delegates with promising results from projects using satellites to identify wide-area forest retreat and expansion.
|The Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was agreed in 1997 and entered into force in February this year, was an initial effort to moderate climate change by setting caps on greenhouse gas emissions of industrialised nations based on 1990 levels. The Protocol was only ever considered a first step however, and its remit extends only until 2012.
Some 10 000 people, including delegations from 190 nations, plus intergovernmental organisations and non-governmental organisations, are gathered at a two-week event in Montreal â€“ formally known as the eleventh session of the Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention, held in conjunction with the first session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP 11/MOP 1) â€“ to negotiate what comes next after Kyoto.
Deforestation is proving a popular topic for debate so far. Up to a quarter of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions are due to deforestation. However the Kyoto Protocol did not deal with forest conservation, other than to give â€˜Annex Iâ€™ countries in the developed world a responsibility to report changes in land cover influencing the amount of carbon stored on their territory, to gain emissions credits accordingly. Developed countries can also fund â€˜Clean Development Mechanismâ€™ afforestation projects in developing nations.
Now the government of Papua New Guinea has raised the proposal of a post-Kyoto mechanism to reward developing nations for preserving their forests. If deforestation rates in a given country decreased, the country as a whole would gain emission credits from it.
On Wednesday morning even the United States and Saudi Arabia â€“ both countries opposed to the Kyoto Protocol â€“ spoke in favour of discussing mechanisms to preserve forests on a national basis. The point was also made by Switzerland that besides serving as a means of reducing emissions, preserving and expanding forests also helps ensure sustainable development and food security. And the other functions of forests, including preserving biodiversity and conserving soils, could actually help reduce the vulnerability of local populations to climate change.
ESA side event
Delegates in attendance heard that four years before the Kyoto Protocol was ratified, ESA began a project called KYOTO-INVENTORY to develop satellite-based land cover mapping services to fulfil Kyoto reporting requirements, working with the responsible agencies in Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland.
The results have been sufficiently promising that the work continues as part of a wider project called GSE Forest Monitoring, with an increased number of national European users and also in the developing world, including Indonesia and South Africa.
JosÃ© Romero of the Swiss Agency for the Environment, Forests and Landscapes, and Deputy Head of the Switzerland Delegation at COP 11, explained that his countryâ€™s forest cover kept relatively stable, but that it was spread across the countryâ€™s 26 cantons in a complex and fragmented manner.
Gerardo SÃ¡nchez PeÃ±a of the General Directorate for Biodiversity (DGB) of Spain's Ministry of the Environment explained that KYOTO-INVENTORY products had been produced across three Spanish provinces of Lleida, Girona and Caceres, totalling 37 949 square kilometres of territory.
Antonio Lumicisi, working on Kyoto Protocol issues at Italyâ€™s Ministry of the Environment, explained that KYOTO-INVENTORY coverage of his country ranged across five regions of very different topography across the country, Abruzzo, Calabria, Lombardy, Molise and Toscana.
Dimitris Lalas of the National Observatory of Athens, Head of the Greek delegation to COP 11/MOP 1, explained that, as in Spain and Italy, forests in his country changed quickly due to droughts and forest fires. Based on studies of test sites, the wide-area view from satellites was useful for keeping track of these changes.
The side event is viewable as a webcast on the UNFCCC COP 11/MOP 1 website. Also available as a webcast is a talk from the previous day by Olivier Arino, Head of the ESA Earth Observation Projects Section.
ESA is maintaining an exhibit throughout the Conference, which concludes on 9 December. A dedicated computer demonstrator on ESA and European Commision GMES projects is being shown in the European Union pavilion. ESA is also participating in a Canadian Space Agency thematic day at the Canadian pavilion on 8 December.