The 2017 UN Climate Conference (COP23) gathered over 20,000 people in Bonn, Germany this past November to drive forward global efforts to combat climate change. Attendees were diverse, ranging from non-governmental and international organizations to high-level government officials.
For the first time in its 12-year history, GEO participated as an official exhibitor and side event organizer at the COP. This was made possible through a 2016 decision of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), evidencing the increased recognition of the value of Earth observations (EO) for tackling climate change.
Hundreds of visitors from diverse sectors visited GEO’s exhibit booth over two weeks to learn about the work we are doing in support of the Paris Agreement, in areas including carbon, water, agriculture, energy, oceans, wetlands and more.
While many exhibit visitors came from beyond the traditional EO community and were unfamiliar with GEO, a common thread among almost all was their need for environmental data to better inform policy and decision-making processes. All too often, people working to combat climate change are struggling to find or access appropriate data for their uses. Many visitors to the GEO exhibit were surprised to learn that over 400 million EO resources are discoverable and accessible openly for download via the GEOSS Platform (www.geoportal.org), including data resources covering most - if not all - of the 50+ Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) Essential Climate Variables (ECVs). This illustrates an enormous untapped potential for GEO to support governments addressing the challenges posed by climate change.
GEO, together with GCOS and the Remote Sensing Technology Center of Japan (RESTEC), also organized an official Side Event that was introduced by Andrea Tilche of the European Commission and moderated by the European Space Agency’s Stephen Briggs, and was attended by over 100 people. The event explored the role of integrated observations for mitigation and adaptation. Speakers included country representatives (Germany and Japan) and international organisations (Integrated Carbon Observation System [ICOS], Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] and GCOS). A summary and pictures of the event are available here.
One key topic of the side event was the role of Earth observations to support National Greenhouse Gas Inventories and the ongoing refinement of the IPCC Guidelines. During the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) session, this issue was formally brought forward and finally included in the outcome document, which noted the “increasing capability to systematically monitor greenhouse gas concentrations and emissions, through in situ as well as satellite observations, and its relevance in support of the Paris Agreement”.
These outcomes mark the successful entry of GEO into the UNFCCC COP arena, and we look forward to an even stronger presence next year at COP24.
The Secretariat also participated in a side event on “NEXGEN Governance Systems” for Climate, organized by the Higher Ground Foundation (initiative of Climate Mitigation Works Ltd., UK registry). The event explored how the Paris Agreement goals can be achieved through a next generation of governance which is decentralized and based on scalability, efficiency and transparency. As part of that governance, the Vulnerability Reduction Credit (VRCTM) Standard Framework was launched as a cross-sectoral metric to quantify the results of climate adaptation measures that may serve for adaptation target setting, monitoring and evaluation, and supporting finance for countries taking measures to reduce vulnerability, in line with commitments to the Paris Agreement. GEO, through GEOSS, has a role to play in supplying specific Earth observation data and information as part of the VRC methodology needed by countries participating in the framework.
More information on GEO’s role at COP23 (including the exhibition material and the side event presentations) can be found here.
Contributions from UNIGE/ISE to the Group on Earth Observations and the Global Earth Observation System of Systems