The information on this page was published in the past, thus it may be different from the current status.
To check the date of issuance, please refer to the following URL for the list of interviews, or for the list of special articles.

Conquering Global Warming: Contributing to the GEO Global Carbon Project
Japan Contributes to Efforts to Solve Environmental Problems José Achache Director of the Secretariat, Group on Earth Observations (GEO)

The only organization in the world to integrate global observations

Q. Why do you think GEO is necessary?


GEO is needed because we are currently faced with various critical issues related to the Earth’s environment. It is the only organization in the world that integrates observations in various areas, covering disasters, health, energy, weather, water, climate, ecosystems, agriculture, and biodiversity. To find ways to respond to and solve environmental problems, we first need to observe the current situation. Each country’s governments and related organizations are required to consider the effects of these results on the environment and nature, and to take appropriate measures. In order to do this, it is very important to grasp the current situation on Earth.
We need to understand the various elements of the environment in a comprehensive manner, because these elements are all interrelated. Previously, we focused on one issue at a time, and discussed countermeasures for that problem alone. But today, people understand that these various issues are closely related and need to be dealt with comprehensively. GEO’s integrated observation data is used to overcome these environmental issues.

Q. What is the goal of the GEO Carbon Project?

The goal of the Carbon Project is to perform global carbon observations using internationally standardized methods. Plants, the ground’s surface, the atmosphere, and oceans emit and absorb carbon dioxide. We observe the amount of carbon emissions and absorption, then we track the carbon cycle of each local area, and distribute the observation data for easy utilization.
When you think about environmental issues, you can’t ignore that carbon is an important theme. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global warming is progressing, and is related to the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is one of them. When governments decide on future policies, it becomes important to know how much carbon is emitted into the atmosphere due to increases in industrial activity, agriculture, housing, transportation and deforestation, as well as how much carbon is absorbed by vegetation, soils, forests and oceans.
The Carbon Project, which is not a simple program, is steadily moving forward. We will maintain regular contact with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the IPCC, and continue to cooperate with them. I believe we can complete the Carbon Project by 2015, as indicated in the GEO 10-year Implementation Plan.

Protecting the Earth from global warming

Q. What kind of discussions were held, and what kind of future direction was decided at the GEO ministerial meeting in Beijing in November 2010?

GEO ministerial summit, Beijing, November 2010 (courtesy:GEO)
GEO ministerial summit, Beijing, November 2010 (courtesy:GEO)

At the GEO ministerial meeting in Beijing, importance was placed on continuing to provide access to observation data. Organizations working in environmental management, as well as in science, recognized again the need for the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS). Governments require observation data on all issues, and they have expressed a high regard for the usability of GEOSS.
To achieve free access to data, we received support from members to set up a utilization system, in order to distribute the vast amounts of observation data provided to GEO. To be more specific, we are going to use the DataCore approach and provide free access to GEO’s observation data to everyone.
They also agreed to maintain GEO and its activities over a much longer period. One of the things we have decided for the future is to look into a legal framework that would allow GEO to continue its work after 2015. GEO has been established based on the 10-year Implementation Plan beginning in 2005.
In addition, we received support from ministers on Carbon Project, Forest Carbon Tracking, and the Group on Earth Observation Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO-BON). GEO-BON is organized under GEOSS, and its goal is to make global observations on biodiversity, which previously were performed only in selected areas.

Q. What do you think policymakers currently need to do to implement the Kyoto Protocol or post-Kyoto Protocol? What do you think are their expectations for GEO?

What policymakers need is information through technology. In other words, they need information on the cause of carbon emissions and the mechanism of carbon absorption and reduction. There is a great demand for observation tools and technologies that will allow us to collect such information, analyze it, and make forecasts. For this purpose, we have established observation networks relating to the Carbon Project, Forest Carbon Tracking and biodiversity. These efforts are a response to requests from policymakers.
Additionally, at the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), held in Nagoya in 2010, we heard voices saying that we need to provide observation data that’s needed to accomplish the goals of the CBD. Recently, GEO has emphasized areas specific to climate, biodiversity and disasters, and thus I think expectations for GEO are to establish world-leading projects in these areas and to promote these programs.

Expectations for JAXA’s contributions to international society

Q. How do you evaluate cooperation from JAXA on GEO’s Carbon Project?

Advanced Land Observing Satellite DAICHI
Advanced Land Observing Satellite DAICHI

JAXA carries out impressive Earth observations satellite programmes. As a result, JAXA is currently leading the world by performing forest observations with the Phased Array type L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (PALSAR) aboard the Advanced Land Observing Satellite DAICHI. This is a very critical instrument for measuring forest area and estimating amounts of carbon stored in these forest.
The Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite IBUKI is the only satellite in the world that specializes in measuring the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. In addition to the observation data from IBUKI, which is very important, data from the Earth observation satellites of the European Space Agency and NASA will also be used. Originally, data from NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) was supposed to be used as well, but unfortunately its launch ended in failure in 2009. Thus, until OCO-2 is launched, the current observation data from IBUKI constitutes the most valuable carbon observation statistics in the world. Q. What are your expectations for JAXA in the future?I would like to further promote the greenhouse gas monitoring project that JAXA has been putting a lot of effort into. I hope they will make progress in the analysis of observation data from IBUKI and make it available to the Carbon Project.

José Achache
Director of the Secretariat, Group on Earth Observations (GEO)
Prof. Achache obtained a Ph.D. in Geophysics from the Pierre et Marie Curie University in Paris, and a Ph.D. in Physical Sciences from the René Descartes University in Paris. In 1989, he was appointed professor at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP). After serving as principal of the Graduate School of Earth Sciences at IPGP, he became Vice-President for Research and Development at the Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Miniéres, the French Geological Survey. In 1999, Prof. Achache became an advisor to the President of the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), the French Space Agency, then Deputy Director General of CNES in 2000. He was subsequently appointed Director of Earth Observation Programs at the European Space Agency. In 2004, Prof. Achache became Director of ESRIN, the ESA Center in Italy. He was posted to his current position as Director of the Secretariat of GEO in 2005.

Return to top