A safer, cleaner Europe: EU Global Monitoring for the Environment and Security
The European Commission today adopted an action plan on GMES – Global Monitoring for the Environment and Security. The plan outlines firm steps towards the establishment of a system that will harness, co-ordinate and enhance existing Earth observation and monitoring information from satellites and Earth-based sensors, in order to support better decision-making for the environment and security. The initiative aims at providing independent, cost-effective, and user-friendly services that can help to anticipate or address crises such as forest fires or floods, and lead to better management of issues ranging from the protection of the environment to combating illegal immigration. Today, a lot of data on these matters are available from many different sources, but for technical reasons or due to a lack of co-operation, they are often inconsistent or not fully integrated. With its Communication, entitled “Establishing a GMES capacity by 2008 (Action Plan (2004-2008)”, the European Commission – in co-operation with the European Space Agency – is laying out the way forward.
“The greater the accuracy and timeliness of the information available, the greater the ability for decision-makers to act effectively,” said European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. “Global Monitoring for the Environment and Security (GMES) will pull together a wide range of diverse information so that it can be used to better manage and anticipate potentially dangerous and costly situations, from environmental crises to security issues. It will also provide a strategic tool to support a wide range of European policies including agriculture, transport, regional development, fisheries and external relations. GMES has also a great potential to stimulate economic growth by fostering the creation of new innovative services – so much so that it has been selected as one of the “Quick Start” projects in the Commission’s Initiative for Growth. ”
Good decisions need good information
Accurate decision-making for the environment and security is complex. In the past, substantial investment has been made to gather and treat information that can better support environmental and security policies. But raw information, including data from diverse and often unrelated sources, has to be processed frequently, often within demanding time constraints. The end result is that the information, in its current form, is not useful to those who need it.
The GMES initiative aims to bring together and make the most of existing data collected from Earth-based in-situ monitoring capacities, as well as airborne and space-based Earth observation tools. It will then deliver it to service providers through an efficient information management system. These providers will create and offer targeted services to groups of specific users, such as public authorities, aid agencies and private enterprises.
Ready for action
The Commission’s Communication provides an Action Plan on how to establish a working GMES capacity by 2008, including a structure for its management, funding aspects and a step-by-step approach on how to move forward. The first priority is to create services that can bring data and information together to create useful services. To do this, two key elements are required. First, the main sources of data need to be reined in and integrated. Next, a means of effectively distributing the information to those that require it needs to be developed.
Specifically, the Action Plan outlines tasks required to accomplish this in the next four years, including:
- Developing the right tools (space and in-situ components) that can collect the required information;
- Designing the appropriate data integration and information management infrastructure that will allow users to easily access and share the information;
- Providing regular and reliable services that are tailored to the specific needs of users;
- Establishing a structure for effectively funding and managing the new GMES capacity.
The combination of existing funds from the EU 6th Research Framework Programme (FP6 2002-2006) plus European Space Agency (ESA) “GMES Services Element” funds will help to develop information delivery services in the 2004-2006 timeframe. It is estimated that €80 million would be required in 2007, with an increase to €150 million in subsequent years for service provision alone.
As is the case with the GALILEO satellite navigation system, a funding mechanism will need to be developed (by a new “GMES Programme Office” involving the European Commission, ESA, EU Member States and private sources) to ensure that users of GMES services (public or private) contribute to the operating costs through an appropriate business model.
The Action Plan will be implemented in close cooperation with ESA, EU and ESA Member States, other international organisations and the private sector. In early 2005, the Commission will make formal proposals for the management scheme and funding resources needed for an operational GMES capacity by 2008.
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