Space-based Earth observation in support of the UNFCCC Paris Agreement

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review


  • Michaela I. Hegglin - , University of Reading (Author)
  • Ana Bastos - , Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry (Author)
  • Heinrich Bovensmann - , Universität Bremen (Author)
  • Michael Buchwitz - , Universität Bremen (Author)
  • Dominic Fawcett - , University of Exeter (Author)
  • Darren Ghent - , University of Leicester (Author)
  • Gemma Kulk - , Plymouth Marine Laboratory (Author)
  • Shubha Sathyendranath - , Plymouth Marine Laboratory (Author)
  • Theodore G. Shepherd - , University of Reading, Julich Supercomputing Centre (Author)
  • Shaun Quegan - , University of Sheffield (Author)
  • Regine Röthlisberger - , Federal Office for the Environment, Bern (Author)
  • Stephen Briggs - , University of Reading, University of Cambridge (Author)
  • Carlo Buontempo - , European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (Author)
  • Anny Cazenave - , Laboratory of Space Geophysical and Oceanographic Studies (Author)
  • Emilio Chuvieco - , University of Alcalá (Author)
  • Philippe Ciais - , Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, Gif sur Yvette (Author)
  • David Crisp - , Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology (Author)
  • Richard Engelen - , European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (Author)
  • Suvarna Fadnavis - , Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (Author)
  • Martin Herold - , Helmholtz Centre Potsdam - German Research Centre for Geosciences (Author)
  • Martin Horwath - , Chair of Geodetic Earth System Research (Author)
  • Oskar Jonsson - , The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, Stockholm (Author)
  • Gabriel Kpaka - , Sierra Leone Meteorological Agency, Freetown (Author)
  • Christopher J. Merchant - , University of Reading (Author)
  • Christian Mielke - , Federal Environmental Agency, Germany (Author)
  • Thomas Nagler - , ENVEO-Environmental Earth Observation Information Technology GmbH (Author)
  • Frank Paul - , University of Zurich (Author)
  • Thomas Popp - , German Aerospace Center (DLR) (e.V.) Location Oberpfaffenhofen (Author)
  • Tristan Quaife - , University of Reading (Author)
  • Nick A. Rayner - , Met Office Hadley Centre (MOHC), Exeter (Author)
  • Colas Robert - , Centre Interprofessionnel Technique d'Etudes de la Pollution Atmosphérique, Paris (Author)
  • Marc Schröder - , Deutscher Wetterdienst (Author)
  • Stephen Sitch - , University of Exeter (Author)
  • Sara Venturini - , Group on Earth Observations (GEO), Geneva (Author)
  • Robin Van der Schalie - , Planet, Haarlem (Author)
  • Mendy Van der Vliet - , Planet, Haarlem (Author)
  • Jean-Pierre Wigneron - , INRAE ISPA, Villenave d'Ornon (Author)
  • R. Iestyn Woolway - , Bangor University (Author)


Space-based Earth observation (EO), in the form of long-term climate data records, has been crucial in the monitoring and quantification of slow changes in the climate system—from accumulating greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere, increasing surface temperatures, and melting sea-ice, glaciers and ice sheets, to rising sea-level. In addition to documenting a changing climate, EO is needed for effective policy making, implementation and monitoring, and ultimately to measure progress and achievements towards the overarching goals of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Paris Agreement to combat climate change. The best approach for translating EO into actionable information for policymakers and other stakeholders is, however, far from clear. For example, climate change is now self-evident through increasingly intense and frequent extreme events—heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, and flooding—costing human lives and significant economic damage, even though single events do not constitute “climate”. EO can capture and visualize the impacts of such events in single images, and thus help quantify and ultimately manage them within the framework of the UNFCCC Paris Agreement, both at the national level (via the Enhanced Transparency Framework) and global level (via the Global Stocktake). We present a transdisciplinary perspective, across policy and science, and also theory and practice, that sheds light on the potential of EO to inform mitigation, including sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases, and adaptation, including loss and damage. Yet to be successful with this new mandate, EO science must undergo a radical overhaul: it must become more user-oriented, collaborative, and transdisciplinary; span the range from fiducial to contextual data; and embrace new technologies for data analysis (e.g., artificial intelligence). Only this will allow the creation of the knowledge base and actionable climate information needed to guide the UNFCCC Paris Agreement to a just and equitable success.


Original languageEnglish
Number of pages23
JournalFrontiers in Environmental Science
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2022

External IDs

Scopus 85140468834
ORCID /0000-0001-5797-244X/work/142246558


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Sustainable Development Goals