Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Climate R3 about to kick-off in Sydney

Image Credit: Australian Space Policy Unit

From July 18-20 at the Menzies hotel in Sydney, Australia will host the Climate Regional Readiness Review or “Climate R3” as it is known. The Climate R3 initiative was born out of an Australian proposal at the Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum (APRSAF) -17 that was held in Melbourne in November 2010 that was aimed at undertaking a Regional Readiness Review for Key Climate Missions.

Overall, the aim of the review is to determine the ability of APRSAF countries and their relevant institutions to benefit from space derived data and information that will be derived from climate related earth observation satellites that will be launched in the next few years.

The first topics chosen for this review include:
  • Precipitation Information
  • Soil Moisture
  • Land Use / Mapping

All three of these are definitely high priority areas for Australia in light of the recent droughts and floods, and have been determined to be high priority areas to the APRSAF governments. Future Climate R3 may broaden their focus to other APRSAF priority areas.

The review plans to look at the end-to-end system of data and information flow, from space-based acquisition, right through to the dissemination and exploitation of this data to support each nations needs. It will include a review of the satellite coverage against each area; local reception facilities; data storage and processing together with in-country know how; product development needs and dissemination capabilities.

Climate R3 will also undertake a review of the institutional arrangements in APRSAF countries, including identification of end-user groups.

I was also lucky enough to speak with Mr Stephen Ward and Mr George Dyke, who are two of the key figures driving the success of the Climate R3. I posed them the following questions:

SpaceBoomerang: What benefits of Climate R3 do you see for Australia?

Australia wishes to see well-informed climate policy in the Asia-Pacific region for our mutual benefit, and securing access to key space data streams and ensuring capacity for their exploitation is an important part of supporting that policy. By playing a coordinating role in brokering the international partnerships and data flows at the heart of Climate R3, Australia will be building on its existing international space linkages, creating new linkages, and ultimately helping to ensure future access to data. We have already seen those linkages in action, with support to the development of the workshop being provided by key partners like JAXA (Japan), USGS and NASA (USA), and ESA (Europe).

SpaceBoomerang: How do you think initiatives like Climate R3 support developing nations in the region?

The Asia-Pacific, unlike USA and Europe, has no comprehensive region-wide process for the systematic assessment of our climate information requirements, in particular for the planning and implementation of the supporting satellite observation systems to satisfy these requirements. Being home to 60% of the world’s population, the region deserves, and has a pressing need for such a capacity and process especially as it is particularly vulnerable to many of the expected impacts of climate change processes. Initiatives like Climate R3 create a forum where countries in the Asia-Pacific with expertise and space capabilities can share expertise, information and support capacity building in nations who do not. While still a pilot initiative, participants in the Climate R3 workshop will cover a wide range of Asia-Pacific countries including Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, USA, and Australia, as well as Europe.

SpaceBoomerang: This is one of the first international Australian driven space initiatives in many years. Do you think this is the start of a broader plan for Australia to become actively involved in international space activities again?

The pilot Climate R3 workshop is being coordinated by the Space Policy Unit (SPU) within the Australian Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (DIISR). The SPU has been given a mandate to bring forward a National space policy for consideration by Government. Part of this mandate is to consider how Australia uses space to tackle climate change, weather forecasting, natural resource management, forestry and agriculture, disaster management, and national security. The focus of the Climate R3  workshop is on ensuring access to key climate-related data streams, and so it fits well within this mandate.

Broader Australian engagement in international space activities would also take place within this mandate, and therefore would in all likelihood be linked to the areas of national interest identified. Climate R3  is focused on Earth observation, but other areas of interest in the future may include other space services like position, navigation and timing, and satellite communications and broadband; support to space science and research and applications development; development of Australia’s domestic space industries; and, safeguarding Australia’s national security.

SpaceBoomerang: Climate R3 is one of a growing number of initiatives coming from the APRSAF. Where do you see the future of the APRSAF cooperation, and what role do you see Australia playing in its future?

APRSAF includes broad membership from across Asia, and past activities have been built substantively on Japan’s long heritage in space. As a number of Asian countries increase the sophistication of their space activities, developing both space-based hardware and applications for the benefit of their societies, more opportunities to share those benefits will naturally emerge through forums like APRSAF. The diversity of Asian space programs means that those opportunities will likely emerge across the full range of space activities, with nations engaging in cooperation when those opportunities align with their national interests.

Australia has been engaged in APRSAF for some time now, having hosted the 11th (2004) and 17th (2010) APRSAF meetings. As Australia continues to develop its Space Policy, identifying areas of national interest, you would expect to see further opportunities for collaboration with APRSAF countries emerge. Australia’s good relations with traditional space powers like Japan, the USA, and Europe also position it well to play a coordination role within the Asia-Pacific.

Climate R3  is being led by Australia through the Space Policy Unit, who is collaborating with Geoscience Australia, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO and other Australian Government departments.

ESA, NASA, USGS and JAXA are also providing support for the initiative, with speakers currently planned from Australia, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Europe and the United States of America.

For more information, head to the information page on space.gov.au over here.

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