Climate Change

Europe plans to send satellites into space to monitor CO2 emissions

European governments agreed on May 26, 2003 to launch the long-delayed Galileo space program, seen as a potential rival to the U.S. military's GPS global satellite positioning system.

The satellites will be able to give an accurate figure of CO2 in the atmosphere produced by humans

Sean Fleming
Senior Writer, Formative Content
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Climate Change?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Climate Change is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Climate Change

The world’s first constellation of CO2-monitoring satellites is being planned by the European Space Agency (ESA).

Once in orbit, they will track CO2 hotspots across the world, making it possible to determine the anthropogenic, or man-made, contribution to levels of carbon in the atmosphere.

The project is likely to be made up of three satellites and will form part of the Copernicus space programme, which is jointly funded by the European Union and the ESA. Its funding will be decided at an meeting in Seville, Spain, in November.

Developing the satellites will cost “somewhere above the €600 million ($670 million) mark,” not including launch or operation costs, according to Guido Levrini, Copernicus Space Segment Programme Manager at the ESA.

Since 1958, the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii has monitored atmospheric CO2 levels. Its measurements feed into the Keeling Curve, a record that shows the extent to which human activity has influenced atmospheric carbon levels. Those levels are now almost double pre-industrial amounts.

The Keeling Curve Image: Scripps Institution of Oceanography

The EU satellites will allow more thorough assessments of carbon emissions across European countries, some of which may struggle to hit their targets.

The EU has set three key climate and energy targets to hit by 2030:

  • At least 40% cuts in greenhouse gas emissions (compared with 1990 levels)
  • At least 32% share for renewable energy
  • At least 32.5% improvement in energy efficiency.
Have you read?

“The EU wants to use space-based assets to contribute to its planned 2028 carbon stocktake,” Levrini said. “This requires a complete two-year data take (2026-2027), hence the need to have the system operational by the beginning of 2026.”

With planning and preparations already well under way, getting the satellites in orbit in time puts the launch timetable as somewhere in 2025, assuming funding is secured.

“Given the high political priority of measuring the anthropogenic CO2 contribution from space, we expect funding to be successful,” Levrini said.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Climate ChangeEmerging Technologies
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

The world is facing a 70% supply shortfall in low-carbon buildings, new report says – here’s why

Victoria Masterson

April 11, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum