Improving environmental monitoring: European Commission launches new research network

Environmental impact assessment depends on solid measurement standards and monitoring tools. Science and technology can help explain what is happening to European water, soil, air and forestry, undertake chemical and biological analyses, and inform policy makers and the public at large. European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin and European Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström today launched a new network of scientific institutes, universities and enterprises – the METROPOLIS network – which will monitor the environment across Europe. METROPOLIS aims to identify environmental standards and scientific assessment tools. It will facilitate better European co-operation in monitoring the environment and contribute to reinforcing Europe’s science base for environmental policies. “METROPOLIS is a good example of researchers working together to inform policy-makers at European level” said Commissioner Busquin. “In the environment, as in other fields, it is important that policy-makers have access to the latest, most relevant and reliable scientific evidence when taking decisions. The METROPOLIS network will bring together 38 leading institutes from 17 countries in the field of environmental monitoring: a critical mass of scientific excellence at EU level to provide the scientific evidence that the Commission and other public authorities need.”

Commissioner Wallström added: “A science based approach is key to providing solutions for a sustainable future. We need to be able to accurately assess the state of our environment and identify areas where there is improvement or deterioration, as well as potential threats and pressures. Access to reliable data is therefore essential for politicians to take well informed decisions. I feel confident that the METROPLIS network will provide practical support and look forward to seeing the outcome of this collaboration in areas such as soil protection.”

Co-ordinated by INERIS, the French National Institute responsible for environmental risks, METROPOLIS brings together 38 institutes, universities, and enterprises from 17 countries – including CEN (the European Committee for Standardisation) and the Commission’s Joint Research Centre. It will be funded with a EU contribution of EUR969,574 within the EU Research Framework Programme for an initial period of 24 months. The network will work closely with the Commission in designing and implementing sustainable development policies.

Comprehensive coverage

The METROPOLIS Network will address the main aspects of environmental monitoring including air, water and soil management. It will also tackle a wide range of metrology issues, from the performance of measurement and sampling strategies, to the problems of effective transmission, processing and modelling of measurement results into databases and geographic information systems. The project should lead to the correct interpretation of results, in the light of estimated uncertainties. METROPOLIS will also respond to the current and future requirements of decision-makers and, where necessary, deliver information needed by citizens.

This global approach will improve the dissemination of scientific best practice in environmental monitoring across Europe – particularly in candidate countries. It will help to identify knowledge gaps, and encourage the development of research projects to meet those needs. Research In Support of EU Policies The METROPOLIS Network aims to be a key player in the development and implementation of environment-related European policies, technical and economic regulations, and standards. In this context, the Commission will seek the support of the network for future policy developments. The METROPOLIS Network will work closely with the European Environmental Agency. The METROPOLIS network will support the EEA’s work, mainly in the area of developing measurement methods in metrology. The EEA will be able to contact experts from this network at any time to inquire about the availability or suitability of analytical methodologies for given types of analyses. This could include performance characteristics of the methods, validation aspects, routine use in environmental monitoring, technical shortcomings etc.

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Fabio Fabbi Europäische Kommission

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