The European Space Agency (ESA) has announced a new mission where human-made emissions of greenhouse gases will be tracked from space. ESA, in collaboration with the European Union's (EU) Earth-monitoring programme Copernicus, announced this mission during the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow on November 2. It will incorporate a constellation of satellites called European CO2 Monitoring and Verification Support Capacity (CO2MVS). This will help countries to stay on track and meet climate change mitigation targets.
The constellation of satellites is being developed by ESA along with the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT). The satellites are meant to orbit around the Earth and measure, in unprecedented detail and in real-time, the concentration of carbon dioxide and methane in Earth's atmosphere. This statement was released by Copernicus representatives.
According to these representatives, the satellites could be functional by 2026. The Paris Agreement of 2015 requires nations to take note of their annual progress towards greenhouse gas reduction targets. The first and second rounds of analysis are scheduled to be completed by 2023 and 2028, respectively. In that case, ESA's mission could aid in the second cycle.
The satellite constellation is believed to be "game-changing." This is because it will detect individual sources of greenhouse gas emissions such as power plants or dumping yards. Currently, satellites only measure the total atmospheric concentrations of the gases. The new satellites will be designed to provide broader coverage, sharper detail, and higher accuracy.
The computer models of Earth's atmosphere and biosphere will integrate the data received from this constellation. These models are already being used by the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).
Richard Engelen, deputy director of CAMS, said, "By providing globally consistent and high-quality data on anthropogenic emissions we can support policymakers with this enormous challenge."