The UK and France have struck an “ambitious” deal to monitor atmospheric carbon dioxide from space in a joint climate mission.
The UK Space Agency has provided new funding for a joint British and French MicroCarb mission dedicated to monitoring atmospheric carbon dioxide – the main greenhouse gas responsible for climate change.
Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, and Laurence Monnoyer-Smith, Director of Sustainable Development of the French space agency, CNES, signed an implementation arrangement for the MicroCarb mission at COP26 – the United Nations climate change conference being hosted by the UK in Glasgow.
The UK will provide a further £3.9 million for the mission, due to launch in early 2023, which will be the first European satellite dedicated to measuring atmospheric CO2 from all around the world – the main greenhouse gas caused by human activity.
MicroCarb’s data will contribute to global efforts to measure how much carbon is being emitted by natural processes and how much by human activities. This information will help inform decisions on tackling climate change.
Science Minister George Freeman said:
The new funding is to complete the build and testing of the satellite, led by Thales Alenia Space at the RAL Space assembly and test facilities on the Harwell Space Cluster, in Oxfordshire, and for National Centre for Earth Observation experts at the universities of Leicester and Edinburgh to translate atmospheric CO2 observation into maps that show carbon sources and sinks and the National Physical Laboratory, in Teddington, to understand how instrument and observation aspects contribute to the data use.
Laurence Monnoyer-Smith, Director of Sustainable Development of CNES, said:
Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said:
The new funding takes the UK’s contribution to £13.9 million since the two agencies agreed to work on the mission.
MicroCarb, which will become operational in 2023, will monitor Earth’s atmospheric CO2 from space with extreme precision and detect the changes associated with surface emissions and uptake across the world from our cities, forests and oceans. An important feature of the satellite is its special city-scanning observing mode that will allow us to map the CO2 distribution across cities to constrain emissions from cities which are responsible for the majority of global emissions.
Data from MicroCarb will help monitor international progress in meeting the Paris Agreement climate target of limiting global surface warming to well below 2ºC of pre-industrial temperatures.
The government recently launched the National Space Strategy, which outlines the long-term plans to grow the UK space sector and make Britain a science and technology superpower, including building on manufacturing and technology capacity, attracting investment and working internationally.