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MethaneSAT picks SpaceX as launch provider for mission to protect Earth’s climate

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The nonprofit MethaneSAT LLC announced today (13 January) that it has signed a contract with SpaceX to deliver its new satellite into orbit aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. Now under construction after completing an intensive design process, the MethaneSATinstrument is on schedule for a launch window that opens October 1, 2022.

“This is a unique mission on an ambitious timeline,” said Dr. Steven Hamburg, MethaneSAT project co-lead. “SpaceX offers the readiness and reliability we need to deliver our instrument intoorbit and begin streaming emissions data as soon as possible. We couldn’t ask for a more capable launch partner.”

MethaneSAT is the newest in a growing wave of methane satellites. It is designed to fill a critical gap between existing missions by providing higher sensitivity and better spatial resolution than global mapping instruments like TROPOMI, combined with a much wider field of view than pointsource systems like GHGSat. MethaneSAT plans to stream its data online at no charge for noncommercial users.

Cutting human-made methane emissions is increasingly recognized by scientists, policymakers and the oil and gas industry as a necessary element of any successful climate strategy. Measurements taken by MethaneSAT will enable both companies and governments to locate, quantify and track methane emissions from oil and gas operations worldwide, and use that data toreduce emissions of the highly potent greenhouse gas.

MethaneSAT is building an advanced data platform to automate complex analytics required to determine the amount of methane that is being released across a landscape, transforming a process that now takes scientists weeks or months into one that provides users with actionable data in just a few days. Making methane emissions data for oil and gas infrastructure across the globe freely available will create unprecedented transparency, giving stakeholders and the public a vital window on the progress toward emission reduction goals.

Unique mission MethaneSAT is a subsidiary of Environmental Defense Fund, which has a long record of working with both business and policymakers to create innovative, science-based solutions to critical environmental challenges. “Reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas industry is the fastest, most cost-effective way we have to slow the rate of warming right now, even as we continue to decarbonize the energy system,” said Mark Brownstein, EDF senior vice president for energy. “MethaneSAT is designedto create transparency and accountability to make sure companies and governments don’t miss that opportunity.”

Last month, the Bezos Earth Fund announced a $100 million grant to EDF that will support criticalwork including completion and launch of MethaneSAT. A leading source of expertise on methane emissions, EDF co-ordinated a sweeping series of studies that produced more than 50 peer-reviewed scientific papers involving more than 150 academic and industry co-authors who assessed methane emissions at every stage in the US oil and gas supply chain.

Cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas industry 45% by the year 2025 would have the same 20-year climate benefit as shutting down one-third of the world’s coal-fired power plants. The idea for MethaneSAT was first unveiled by EDF President Fred Krupp in an April 2018 TEDTalk, as one of the inaugural group of world-changing ideas selected for seed funding by the Audacious Project, successor to the TED Prize.

Brexit

‘It is not a friendly signal from the UK immediately after leaving the European Union’ Borrell

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The EU’s High Representative on Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, was asked about the decision of the UK to refuse full diplomatic status to the EU Ambassador to the UK Joao Vale de Almeida and his team in London. Borrell said that it was not a friendly signal from the UK immediately after leaving the European Union.

Borrell pointed out that the EU’s 143 delegations around the world had all - without exception - granted the delegations a status equivalent to that under the Vienna Convention. He said that the EU would not accept that the UK would be the only country in the world that will not give the EU delegation the recognition equivalent to that of a diplomatic mission. 

“Granting reciprocal treatment based on the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations is standard practice between equal partners and we are confident that we can clear this issue with our friends in London in a satisfactory manner,” said Peter Stano, the commission’s spokesman for foreign affairs.

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Kyriakides calls on Astra Zeneca to respect delivery schedules for its vaccine

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In response to AstraZeneca’s announcement that they were expecting to make shortfalls in the delivery of its COVID-19 vaccine, Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides has written to AstraZeneca stressing the importance of meeting the delivery schedules laid out in its agreement with the EU. 

Kyriakides reiterated in the letter that the scaling up of the production capacity has to happen concurrently with the conduct of clinical trials to ensure the availability of the vaccines as quickly as possible. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has not yet given its authorization - a point that has led to criticism from EU states. Her spokesperson said that the scaling up of production was an important premise of the contract. 

The issue will be discussed in a meeting of the steering board made up of the European Commission, member states and the company today (25 January) where it will be made clear that the EU expects contractual obligations to be met. 

Chief Spokesperson for the European Commission Eric Mamer added that European Commission President had spoken with the CEO of AstraZeneca, where she reminded him that the EU has invested significant amounts in scaling up production.  However, she also recognized that production issues can appear with a complex vaccine.

Despite the publicized supply problems at vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca, Peter Liese MEP (EPP, DE)  said: "AstraZeneca's announcement to reduce the planned supply for the EU from 80 million to 31 million doses in the first quarter must not and will not be the last word. [...] they are apparently delivering to other parts of the world, including the UK without delay. The flimsy justification that there are difficulties in the EU supply chain but not elsewhere does not hold water, as it is of course no problem to get the vaccine from the UK to the continent. 

“The company cannot be interested in permanently damaging its reputation in the world's largest single market. Many in the company seem to be embarrassed by the matter. That's why I expect a change in the delivery plans for the EU in the next few hours, and an accelerated one at that. Even the 31 million doses, however, would be a significant improvement in the situation in the EU.”

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Minister calls for Magnitsky-type sanctions in response to Russia's detention of Navalny

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European foreign ministers meeting today (25 January) will discuss the situation in Russia. Arriving at the meeting, Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said that the EU needed to send a clear and decisive message that the arrest of Navalny and the detentions following Saturday’s (23 January) demonstrations in Russia are not acceptable. Landsbergis calls for the use of the Global ‘Magnitsky’ type sanctions. 

The EU has already condemned the detention of the Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny upon his return to Moscow (17 January) and called for his immediate release - as well, as the release of journalists and citizens who were detalined on Mr Navalny’s return to Russia. The EU has also called out the politicization of the judiciary in Russia. 

The European Union has already condemned the assassination attempt, through poisoning using a military chemical nerve agent of the Novichok group, on Alexei Navalny, to which it responded by imposing restrictive measures on six individuals and one entity. The EU has called upon the Russian authorities to urgently investigate the assassination attempt on Navalny in full transparency and without further delay, and to fully cooperate with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to ensure an impartial international investigation.

It appears that the EU will request the immediate release of Navalny and others, before a possible visit of the EU High Representative Josep Borrell to Russia before imposing sanctions.

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