November 17, 2017 | DLR participated in the 23 Climate Change Conference in Bonn

COP23: Further, faster, together

  • DLR presented its climate-relevant research findings at the Climate Change Conference COP23
  • The topics included monitoring of greenhouse gases and strategies for adapting to droughts
  • Focus: aerospace, aeronautics, Earth observation, climate change

At the 23 Climate Change Conference COP23 in Bonn, held from 6 to 17 November 2017, 30,000 registered participants discussed and negotiated measures for improving climate protection and sustainable development. In the run-up to the event, Pascale Ehrenfreund, Chair of the Executive Board at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), took part in the 'Climate Action and Human Wellbeing at a Crossroads' conference. There, Ehrenfreund emphasised the increased need for interdisciplinary research and regional overarching collaboration in order to improve the conversion of research findings into social merits. During COP23, DLR experts also provided information on DLR's latest research results with relevance to climate change policies.

Research, technology and innovation

The Bonn Conference took place under the motto 'further, faster, together': the historic Paris Agreement of 2015 must be implemented quickly, with far-reaching goals and in partnerships. The targets – to limit global warming to less than two degrees, to significantly increase the adaptability of society and to provide necessary funding – can only be reached by starting to take suitable measures immediately. Research, technology and innovation are core elements for the successful realisation of the Paris Agreement. As the national space agency and Project Management Agency, with its portfolio of research and technology development in the areas of space, aeronautics, energy and transport, DLR contributes to these goals in a variety of areas – for instance through monitoring the climate from space, developing necessary strategies to mitigate climate change and support adaptability, as well as in the improvement of climate models and the development of climate-friendly technologies.

Advisers at a national and international level

As a partner in international collaborations, such as CEOS (Committee on Earth Observing Satellites), the Group on Earth Observation (GEO) and by its dedicated involvement in the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN-COPUOS), DLR is involved in climate negotiations. CEOS reports regularly on systematic climate observation as part of the Subsidiary Body of Scientific and Technological Advice in the Framework Convention on Climate Change and supports the United Nations Global Climate Observation System (GCOS). Within this context, the European space programme Copernicus – in which DLR is involved – also plays an important role.

Experts from the DLR Project Management Agency support German government representatives in the area of climate research on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). As part of the Climate Change Conference COP23, the DLR Project Management Agency was involved in the preparation and organisation of events at the German Pavilion – such as the 'German Science Hour'.

Decarbonisation and greenhouse gases

The speakers at the German Pavilion during COP23 included Robert Sausen from the DLR Institute of Atmospheric Physics: he considered the non-carbon dioxide-effects of air transport, which are responsible for a significant portion of the climate impact of the aviation sector. This relates to changes in the concentration of ozone and methane due to nitrogen oxide emissions, contrails and aircraft-induced cirrus clouds, as well as direct and indirect effects of aerosols. The scientists discussed how these effects would develop in a variety of options for decarbonising the air transport.

As part of the event 'The Greenhouse Gas Calamity: what we do and do not know', Gerhard Ehret from the DLR Institute of Atmospheric Physics presented research and technology developments for the satellite-assisted measuring of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane. The findings can contribute to reducing uncertainties in ascertaining the balance of greenhouse gases and to improving the quantification of changes in the carbon cycle due to climate change and human impact. The atmosphere researcher drew attention to the planned Franco-German MERLIN mission, which from 2021 onward will enable the first high precision measurements of atmospheric methane. In doing so, he highlighted the need of international cooperation to enable satellite-assisted monitoring of greenhouse gases using suitable sensor constellations.

Climate observation from space and Earth

This issue was also addressed at the Japanese Pavilion's 'Round Table Space Travel' discussion. Hans-Peter Lüttenberg, Head of the Earth Observation Department at the DLR Space Administration, joined delegates from the European Commission, the French space agency CNES, the Japanese space agency JAXA and the European Space Agency (ESA) to discuss current and future missions that are needed for satellite-supported monitoring of greenhouse gases. Lüttenberg presented DLR's activities – from the successfully planned and completed SCIAMACHY on Envisat mission to the currently planned MERLIN mission. Participants at the 'Round Table' agreed on the necessity of integrated systems comprising satellite and airborne-supported components, in situ measurements and Earth system models for measuring greenhouse gases. This system should support current approaches to determining the greenhouse gas balance and hence obtaining more reliable information.

Better strategies through Earth observation

Joachim Post from the DLR Department of International Relations moderated discussions between delegates from the worlds of science, development cooperation, government ministries and the United Nations about necessary improvements to drought adaptation strategies and increasing drought resilience. Of all natural hazards, drought events lead to the highest economic and social damage, are enhanced by climate change and changes in land usage, and are partly responsible for food insecurity, famine and migration. The attendees underlined the benefits of Earth observation in providing data and information to support decision-making processes for the dedicated realisation of adaptation measures or in the area of early detection and warnings. Moreover, the attendees emphasised the need for international cooperation across disciplines and sectors in order to minimise consequences.


Manuela Braun

Editor HR
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Central HR Marketing
Münchener Straße 20, 82234 Weßling

Dr Joachim Post

German Aerospace Center (DLR)
International Relations