Australia to push global satellite forest fire tracking system

Australia to push global satellite forest fire tracking system

23 July 2007

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Australia said Monday it planned to lead the development of a global satellite system to monitor forest fires in a bid to help stop deforestation.

The plan involves a network of satellite receiving stations to monitor forest fires in the Asia-Pacific region and extending that network’s capacity to other parts of the world, the government said.

“The ability to measure and monitor changes in forest cover is critical to international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing global deforestation and supporting sustainable forest management,” Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said.

“Australia is inviting partner countries to work with us to link national, regional, and international systems to create a truly global system to monitor forest cover and carbon levels.”

The so-called Global Carbon Monitoring System would be supported by remote sensing satellite monitoring technology and “carbon accounting activities” on the ground, he said.

“By providing better access to historical data and providing timely access to new data, it will support countries’ efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation.”

Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Australia had much expertise to offer other countries in this field.

The idea was announced at a meeting on forests and climate in Sydney involving participants from more than 60 countries.

It is part of a 200 million Australian dollar (176 million US) initiative on forests and climate, which involves building satellite receiving stations in Australia’s Asian neighbours to help them monitor their forests and carbon levels.

Australia’s Asian neighbours have been hit by regular waves of forest fires in recent years. Particularly in Indonesia, deforestation has been fuelled by fires often deliberately set by plantation owners to clear new land.

Through remote sensing, satellite images can be used to pinpoint the exact location of fires and compare them to maps of landholdings to determine who may be responsible. Critics, however, say that the real problem is often combating corruption on the ground rather than determining where the fires are.

Australia’s record on climate change has been widely criticised. Australia and the United States are the only major countries not to have signed the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.


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