Around the time of the Paris climate summit on 12 December 2017, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the Japanese National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES) signed a collaboration agreement regarding remote sensing of greenhouse gases. "Through this agreement, we will be actively involved in implementing the aims established at the Paris Climate Change Conference COP-21 of 2015, and also contribute to the resolutions of COP-23 in Bonn," explained Pascale Ehrenfreund, Chair of the DLR Executive Board. "Annual workshops involving additional Japanese and German greenhouse gas 'stakeholders' will complement our work."
The main point of the agreement is collaboration in the validation of current and future satellite systems for measuring greenhouse gases. Japan is currently running the GOSAT mission and in 2018 will launch the GOSAT-2 mission to measure carbon dioxide, methane and carbon monoxide. In 2020, DLR and the French space agency CNES will jointly undertake the MERLIN mission for the accurate measurement of methane. Furthermore, with the airborne CHARM-F system, DLR can compare data acquired directly in the atmosphere with that acquired by satellite-based systems. Special attention must be devoted to accurate calibration and analysis methodology in order to obtain a better mutual understanding of the different measuring systems.
"The agreement with JAXA and NIES confirms DLR's role as the central point of contact for the satellite-based measurement of greenhouse gases. With the MERLIN climate mission and DLR infrastructure, such as the airborne CHARM-F system, and German expertise, DLR, together with other German institutions, will play a key role in setting up an international network within the framework of the Global Carbon Observatory," explained Gerd Gruppe, DLR Executive Board Member responsible for the Space Administration, on the occasion of the signing in Paris.
Accurate knowledge of local sources and sinks of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane and carbon monoxide, is crucial for the implementation of measures – also at a national level. "For this, we need sensors capable of detecting minimal changes from space with very high accuracy. In order to be able to make global use of the satellite measurements acquired by the different space agencies, it is vital that the sensors are comparable, which means that measured data are validated and referenced against a standard," clarified Albrecht von Bargen from the Earth Observation department of the DLR Space Administration in Bonn.
JAXA's additional agreements with ESA, CNES and NASA in Paris on 12 December 2017 will unite the world's leading space agencies in an international network – the 'Global Carbon Observatory'. Satellite remote sensing should also be an important element in the evaluation of climate change through the International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC). This has already been recognised at the European level in the Copernicus programme. Albrecht von Bargen: "Sentinel-7 from the next generation of Copernicus will thus become a component of an operational system of satellites and in-situ networks for observing the carbon cycle. We view this as a key contribution to the monitoring of climate change."