Satellites can help the EU monitor climate change, address international crises and contain natural disasters. Today in Brussels EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin and Mr Antonio Rodotà, the Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA), officially opened a large stakeholder consultation forum aiming at the definition of European needs to enhance global monitoring for environment and security (GMES).
250 participants, representing users, suppliers and researchers, addressed policy options to upgrade Europe`s capability for global monitoring by 2008. Combining spaceborne, land-based and airborne technologies, GMES will pool Europe`s activities in satellite observation and remote sensing. GMES seeks to make better use of Europe`s existing and planned capabilities and infrastructures and to develop mechanisms for improved collection and distribution of information.
Data from Envisat and other spaceborne and terrestrial observation systems will improve the ability of European researchers, private companies and public authorities to track environmental pollution, react to emergencies, improve cross-border response to catastrophic events, follow movements of refugees, facilitate the distribution of aid, and support peace-keeping troops outside Europe.
Commissioner Busquin said: "GMES is both a technological and an organisational challenge for Europe. It is a good example of how Europe, by working together in research, can develop technologies that contribute to improving the quality of life and meeting security needs. For instance, GMES will support implementation of the EU fisheries policy through more accurate monitoring of the evolution and migration of fish stocks."
Mr Rodotà referred to the dedicated efforts by ESA in the framework of GMES. As a new step, ESA will start implementing operational services than can now meet some priority users` requirements, based on current Earth observation capacities. "Concrete implementation of the GMES initiative is thus under way. Furthermore, ESA is now fully engaged with the European Commission in discussing the most appropriate arrangements for ensuring the long-term sustainability of the GMES initiative".
Today`s meeting is the first in a series that will foster dialogue between decision-makers and the many organisations involved in monitoring and in providing information for environmental and security purposes. The forum will lead to publication of a report at the end of 2003, to provide policy-makers with recommendations for future action.
GMES will enhance Europe`s ability to retrieve and process information obtained from space-borne and terrestrial observation systems with other geographical or socio-economic data. It will respond to growing concerns among policy-makers for timely, free and independent access to information on the environment and security at global, regional and local levels. GMES will support EU policies in areas such as sustainable development, global climate change and the common foreign and security policy.
At the global level, GMES will provide new verification tools to contribute to the precise monitoring of compliance with international agreements, such as the Kyoto protocol on climate change, as well as security and international aid agreements. At the same time, GMES will help local authorities pinpoint problems (e.g. shoreline erosion, environmental stress) and react more effectively to catastrophic events (e.g. floods, mudslides, avalanches, and forest fires). At EU level GMES will provide new objective data to support a broad range of EU policies, including regional development, transport, agriculture, enlargement, development, and foreign policy.
GMES is a key element of the European Space Strategy developed by the Commission and the European Space Agency. Along with the Galileo global satellite navigation system, GMES will be a major pillar of the European Space Policy emerging from the ever-closer partnership between the two organisations.
In November 2000, both the EU and ESA Ministerial Councils endorsed the GMES initiative and identified GMES and Galileo as top priorities and test cases for implementation of the European Strategy for Space.
GMES was also presented in the Commission Communication to the Gothenburg Council in June 2001, with the goal to create the system by 2008. The idea was further developed in the Communication "Outline GMES EU Action Plan (Initial Period: 2001-2003)", which elaborates on the objectives, general implementation principles, organisation and first priorities.
On the ESA side, GMES is at the core of a new 5-year programmatic element (the "GMES Services element"), fully subscribed by the ESA Council at ministerial level in November 2001. It will allow for the delivery of operational information, based on current European observation capacities, for the thematic priorities already identified in the GMES framework. A first invitation to tender for those services will be issued in September 2002.
GMES is also a key element of the "Aeronautics & Space" priority of the 6th EU Research Framework Programme and will feature in calls for proposals to be published at the end of 2002.
The GMES initiative will also be presented at the World Summit for Sustainable Development taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa, in September 2002, as a follow-up to the 1997 Kyoto conference on global climate change.
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