CEOS Development Environment

The Global Forest Observations Initiative (GFOI)

Article 14 of the Paris Climate Agreement sets out the concept of the Global Stocktake (GST) as a means to evaluate global progress towards the goals of the Agreement. Earth observations naturally play a key role in this process, and CEOS & CEOS Agencies have been working hard in the years leading up to the first GST, to be held in November 2023, at the 28th Conference of Parties of the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This series of articles details the work of CEOS & CEOS Agencies to support the GST process, and includes:

The Global Forests Observations Initiative (GFOI) is an informal partnership of countries and organisations to coordinate international support to developing countries on forest monitoring and greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting for the purposes of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) and related forums. CEOS is a member of the GFOI Leads Group, and helps coordinate the availability of space-based data for forest monitoring. The Leads Group also includes representatives from the governments of Australia, Germany, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States as well as the European Space Agency (ESA), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the World Bank.

Established in 2011 as a Group on Earth Observation (GEO) flagship initiative, GFOI built on the pilot GEO Forest Carbon Tracking (FCT) initiative, which was founded in 2009. Alongside support from GEO, GFOI is supported by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, which hosts the GFOI Office. The Office serves as an independent secretariat for all GFOI partners, and helps to implement the decisions and strategic vision of the Leads Group.

GFOI responds to the needs of the Paris Climate Agreement regarding reporting on the extent and condition of forests and their contribution to global GHG emissions and removals. As forest landscapes contribute significantly to the global GHG cycle, collection of improved information on emissions and removals from this sector is vital in helping countries to tackle climate change. Forest monitoring and associated GHG accounting systems supported by GFOI generate the information needed by countries to help them  meet their international reporting requirements, establish baselines, track progress and develop effective interventions to reduce GHG emissions.

GFOI partners coordinate their activities across four inter-linked components: methods and guidance documentation, capacity building, research and development coordination, and data coordination. These four components and the priority work areas of GFOI are driven by the contributions of GFOI partners. CEOS leads the data coordination component, which supports the acquisition, availability and accessibility of remote-sensing data and other datasets and tools for forest monitoring, as well as countries’ ability to use them. The component will also consider the tools required for storing, accessing, analysing, processing and integrating multiple datasets for forest monitoring and GHG accounting – an increasingly useful task given the pending boom in the volume and variety of space-based data becoming available as new satellites and other data streams come online.

The GFOI data coordination component was built off the work of the CEOS Ad Hoc Space Data Coordination Group for the Global Forest Observations Initiative (SDCG). SDCG was established at the 2011 CEOS Plenary to implement the CEOS Strategy for Space Data Coverage and Continuity in Support of GFOI. At the 2019 CEOS Plenary, the group was officially transitioned to the Forests & Biomass thematic subgroup within the Land Surface Imaging Virtual Constellation (LSI-VC). Given the successful launch and ongoing operation of the free and open  data stream missions at the heart of the GFOI Space Data Strategy, the emphasis from 2019 onwards for CEOS is less on the assurance of data coverage, and more on data accessibility, quality and usability. 

The GFOI Plenary 2023 will take place from 9 – 11 May 2023 at the Headquarters of FAO in Rome. The annual GFOI Plenary brings together the global community of practitioners who support tropical countries in forest monitoring and associated emissions Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) procedures. The overarching theme for the GFOI Plenary 2023 is the role of forest information in addressing climate change with the following subtopics: REDD+, Nationally Determined Contributions, Restoration and Blue Carbon.