China launches carbon-tracking satellite to monitor greenhouse gas emissions

TanSat will provide China's policymakers with independent data for three years.

A woman walks past greenhouses on the grounds of the Belgian royal family's residence of Laeken in Brussels April 19, 2013. The royal family opens its interlocking greenhouses with their wide array of flowers to the public every year, for a duration of three weeks. Reuters

China has launched a satellite to monitor its greenhouse gas emissions as an effort to cut its carbon footprint, Xinhua reported.

The official news agency said China launched the 620 kg (1,370 lbs) satellite TanSat through a Long March-2D rocket from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the northwestern Gobi Desert. According to Yin Zengshan, chief designer of TanSat at the Chinese Academy of Sciences micro-satellite research institute, the satellite was sent into a sun synchronous orbit about 700 km (435 miles) above the earth to monitor the concentration, distribution and flow of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

TanSat launch follows the United States joining China in formally ratifying the Paris agreement to curb climate-warming emissions. This move was also taken as large parts of northern China have been covered in near-record levels of air pollution for most of the time last week. The pollution forced the authorities to issue red alert and disrupted flights. Factories and schools were also ordered to remain closed.

Reports said the satellite was launched after an international study showed that world greenhouse gas emissions stayed flat for the third year in a row in 2016, thanks to falls in China.

Xinhua said TanSat will provide China's policymakers with independent data for three years. The satellite will note readings of global carbon dioxide every 16 days, which is accurate to at least 4 parts per million.

According to the report of the news agency, the rocket that carried the satellite also carried a high-resolution micro-nano satellite and two spectrum micro-nano satellites for agricultural and forestry monitoring.

China is the third country after Japan and the United States to monitor greenhouse gases with its own satellite.