A-SCOPE (Advanced Space Carbon and Climate Observation of Planet Earth) has been one of the six candidates for the third cycle of the Earth Explorer Core missions, selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) for assessment studies. Earth Explorer missions focus on the science and research aspects of ESA's Living Planet Programme. A-SCOPE mission aims at observing atmospheric CO2 for a better understanding of the carbon cycle. Knowledge about the spatial distribution of sources and sinks of CO2 with unprecedented accuracy will provide urgently needed information about the global carbon cycle. A-SCOPE mission encompasses a new approach to observe the Earth from space based on an IPDA (Integrated Path Differential Absorption) Lidar. Based on the known principle of a differential measurement technique, the IPDA lidar relies on the measurement of the laser echoes reflected by hard targets as the ground or the top of the vegetation. Such a time-gated technique is a promising way to overcome the sources of systematic errors inherent to passive missions. To be fully exploited, it however translates into stringent instrument requirements and requires a dedicated performance assessment. In this paper, the A-SCOPE instrument concept is first presented, with the aim of summarizing some important outcomes from the industrial assessment studies. After a discussion of the mission requirements and measurement principles, an overview is given about the instrument architecture. Then the instrument performance is reported, together with a detailed discussion about sources of systematic errors, which pose the strongest technical challenges.© (2009) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.