A Hawke's Bay environmentalist has played a major role in bringing a project to measure methane levels by satellite to New Zealand.
Mission Control for the MethaneSAT project will be based in New Zealand, with the Government announcing it would be putting $26 million towards the project.
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MethaneSAT will be able to measure methane levels, providing data to help track and reduce emissions.
Tom Belford - BayBuzz editor and a former regional councillor - said he was approached by the American Environmental Defense Fund to see whether New Zealand would be interested in participating in the project.
After getting involved, Belford subsequently received formal thanks, stating that if it had not been for his contribution, the project might not have gone ahead.
Dr Peter Crabtree, general manager – science, innovation and international for the
Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment , wrote that:
"I would like to acknowledge the absolutely critical role you played in connecting us to EDF back in June last year. Since then you have remained active in raising broad support for this collaboration. You have also played a very helpful role as a conduit between us and EDF. Were it not for your efforts, I very much doubt that this valuable partnership could have formed."
Belford used to work for the EDF.
"When I heard about the project, I thought there were a number of reasons why it might make sense to pursue New Zealand as a partner.
"From a policy standpoint obviously New Zealand has sought to be a leader in addressing methane issues.
He said the space aspect also tied in well, with Rocket Lab at one pointed being considered for the launch site (it does not have the capacity to launch the satellite at this stage, due to its weight).
However, New Zealand's fledgling space agency was interested.
He said the project ticked all the right boxes.
"This one comes along, and it has a very high scientific pedigree attached to it, because they have folks from Harvard and the Smithsonian.
"It's a mission which has a very important focus to it, in terms of dealing with climate change.
"So it ticked the boxes for the space people at the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment, as something that could really put us forward on an international scale."
The satellite itself is able to identify methane emissions at a granular level, down to the individual feedlot.
It will be able to provide data to countries, who can then use it to inform policy.
"It's not like New Zealand is going to become the global policeman of agricultural emissions.
"The remedying of any of these emissions will still need to happen within individual countries."
At the time of the announcement, Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods said the project will put New Zealand at the global frontier of science and innovation.
"This is an ambitious science partnership between New Zealand and the Environmental Defense Fund that will see New Zealand at the forefront of developing and applying world-leading technology to the global challenge of managing greenhouse gas emissions."
She said while the EDF will initially be focusing on oil and gas emissions, the Government will investigate the possibility of New Zealand using the data to lead an agricultural science component of the mission.
MethaneSAT is scheduled to launch in 2022.
The location of the launch site, and the New Zealand based mission control centre site will be announced in coming months, along with New Zealand's role in the launch and the science components of the mission.