The governments of the world will converge on COP21, the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, with high hopes that, for the first time in over 20 years of United Nations (UN) negotiations, we might aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of combating climate change effectively and boosting the transition towards resilient, low-carbon societies and economies.
To achieve this, the future agreement will focus on both mitigation efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and societies’ adaptation to existing climate changes. The COP21 agreement will enter into force in 2020 and will need to be sustainable to enable long-term change. As a new development in international climate negotiations, each country must publish its proposed national contribution and efforts before COP21.
The economic and social implications and costs of the agreement and its underlying commitments will be enormous and not taken lightly by governments. The commitments being made are indicative of the substantial and compelling evidence that has been compiled regarding the nature, scale and impact of changes to the Earth’s climate system. This evidence has persuaded societies and their governments that significant and sustained action is necessary.
EO data have proven to be fundamental to the development of this evidence now being acted upon. EO data provide the evidence necessary for informed decision-making – supporting the science which underpins strategies for global decision-making – and for monitoring our progress on all geographical scales as we explore new development paths aimed at sustainable management of the planet.
EO will also be central to the execution of a COP21 agreement that specifies quantitative targets for reduction of emissions, including for: evidence and the basis for scientific advice on the cost-effectiveness of different approaches for governments; baselines against which on-going changes can be measured; monitoring and compliance; assessing progress and improving understanding; and improved predictions of climatic changes.
Many of the quantitative indicators that will be discussed in Paris with regards to environmental and climate change will have been derived largely or exclusively from satellite EO. These data offer many ways to improve the implementation of multilateral environmental agreements, such as the continuous provision of global data; historical data archives; observations of several environmental parameters at global, national and local scales; and the provision of synoptic and comparable information without infringing on national sovereignty.
This Handbook has been prepared for the stakeholders and delegates supporting the effort towards a legally binding agreement at COP21. It aims to explain how satellite EO are an absolutely essential tool in the development of the information and evidence that has motivated and formulated the anticipated Paris agreement and that will be fundamental to its execution and the monitoring, reporting and verification of the underlying national commitments. The Handbook seeks to improve understanding of readers from all sectors of society as to the role of satellite EO in support of a well-managed planet.
Part I explains the role of EO in support of our climate information challenges – in the assembly of the evidence of climate changes and future monitoring of key indicators.
Part II compiles a number of contributed articles on key activities in space-based climate observations.
Part III focuses on a few case studies where satellites make a unique contribution in support of climate information. Information that we, simply, could not otherwise hope to possess.