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CHE: Helping Europe Achieve Paris Agreement Goals

Achieving our Paris Climate Agreement objectives will require a way to independently and quantifiably measure CO2 emissions. TNO, and 22 partners from 8 European countries, proved it was possible in CHE.

In order to achieve the Paris Agreement climate goals, every country must act to reduce CO2 emissions. But without an independent, global observation and monitoring system, it will be difficult to measure progress and understand the true impact of these reduction efforts. The European Commission funded a consortium of experts from eight European countries to start developing this monitoring system, and TNO played an essential role.

Assessing the impact

In the CO2 Human Emissions (CHE) project, 22 partners from 8 European countries investigated the potential to monitor anthropogenic (human-made) CO2 emissions and their origin across the world. With a combination of observation, modelling and data assimilation, CHE explored the viability of a combined satellite- and ground-based system that could regularly monitor CO2 and track its dispersion in the atmosphere.

An important component of the project was to isolate these anthropogenic emissions, as opposed to the natural CO2 fluxes that are an essential component of the biosphere, like those that come from volcanos, forests and agriculture.

Addressing the complexities

The challenge of accurately monitoring CO2 is that anthropogenic CO2 can remain in the atmosphere for up to 100 years and can be carried great distances through wind and weather. Therefore, identifying their source and origin is complex, and measuring them can be difficult.

CHE aimed to combine a variety of techniques that have proven useful for monitoring atmospheric composition. In this way, the strengths of each technique can be amplified, and the weaknesses reduced, when focusing on CO2. With new models and new techniques, CHE defined and addressed the various uncertainties of CO2 monitoring, including the type of emission, atmospheric influence, transport, observation technique and more. In this way, this relatively small consortium has been able to make a major contribution to the effort to reduce climate change.

Expertise for direct action

Each partner in CHE offered unique expertise, and provided an essential component to make CHE a success. TNO’s Space Industry and Climate Air & Sustainability teams contributed their expertise in simulation techniques and emission inventories to develop a library of simulations and models that mimic the actual movement of CO2 plumes, and therefore provide the foundations for monitoring and observation in satellite systems and ground stations. TNOs contributions ensure that monitoring anthropogenic CO2 is accurate and effective.

Signs of success

Not only was CHE able to provide conclusive evidence that this innovative system can be capable of monitoring European and global anthropogenic CO2, but the consortium also received praise from the EC’s Research Executive Agency (REA), which named CHE one of its 10 Breakthrough Projects of 2020. After the project’s successful conclusion, REA provided funding for its follow-up: CoCO2, which will further develop the CHE concepts and deliver a prototype anthropogenic CO2 emission estimation system.

Once the system is in operation, it will provide an accurate and independent view of the greatest sources of anthropogenic CO2, allowing for targeted mitigation activities and support for countries as they address their Paris Agreement commitments. These observations will ensure that the Paris Agreement goals remain on track, and together, Europe lives up to its commitment for change.

By partnering in consortia like CHE, TNO reaffirms its commitment to working with other European countries to address some of the biggest challenges of our time.

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Dr. ir. Hugo Denier van der Gon

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