Commission and ESA launch a consultation platform for satellite-based Global Monitoring of Environment and Security

July 16, 2002

Brussels, 15 th July 2002

Today in Brussels EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin and the Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA), Mr. Antonio Rodotà, officially opened a large stakeholder consultation process aiming to define European needs to enhance satellite-based global monitoring for the environment and security (GMES).

Satellites can help the EU monitor climate change, address international crises and contain natural disasters. 250 participants, representing users, suppliers and researchers, addressed policy options to upgrade Europe's capability for global monitoring by 2008. Combining space, land-based and airborne technologies, GMES will pool together Europe's activities in satellite observation and remote sensing.

GMES seeks to better exploit Europe's existing and planned capabilities and infrastructures and to develop mechanisms for better collecting and distributing information. Data from ENVISAT and from other spaceborne, terrestrial, air and seaborne observation systems will allow European researchers, private companies and public authorities to better 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 organizational challenge for Europe. It is a good example of how Europe, by working better together in research, can develop technologies that contribute to improving quality of life and meeting security needs. For instance, through GMES, we will support the implementation of the EU fisheries policy by better monitoring the evolution and migrations of fish stocks."

Mr Rodotà recalled the dedicated efforts by ESA in the framework of GMES. ESA will start the implementation of operational services than can nowadays meet some priority users' requirements, based on current Earth Observation capacities. The very concrete implementation of the GMES initiative is thus underway. Furthermore, ESA is now fully engaged with the European Commission to discuss the most appropriate set-ups to insure the long-term sustainability of the GMES initiative.

Today's meeting is the first in a series that will foster the dialogue between decision-makers and the many organisations involved in monitoring and in providing information for environmental and security purposes. The Forum will result in a report to be issued at the end of 2003, to provide policy-makers with recommendations for the steps ahead.

GMES fosters Europe's ability to retrieve and process information obtained from space-borne and terrestrial observation systems with other geographical or socio-economic data. It responds to growing concerns amongst policy makers to ensure in free and independent access to information on environment and security at global, regional and local level. GMES aims to support EU policies in areas such as sustainable development, global climate change and common foreign and security policy.

At the global level, GMES will provide new verification tools to contribute to the precise monitoring of the implementation of international agreements, such as the Kyoto protocol on climate change, as well as security and international aid agreements. GMES will also help local authorities to pinpoint problems (e.g. shoreline erosion, environmental stress) and better react to catastrophic events (e.g. floods, mudslides, avalanches, and forest fires). At a European 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 (1) developed by the Commission and the European Space Agency (ESA). Along with the GALILEO global satellite navigation system, GMES will be a major pillar of the European Space Policy that is emerging from an ever-closer partnership between the two organisations.

Both the EU and ESA Ministerial Council endorsed in November 2000 the GMES initiative and identified GMES, along with the GALILEO global satellite navigation, as a top priority and test-case for the implementation of the European Strategy for Space.

GMES was also presented in the Commission Communication to the Gothenburg Council in June 2001 (2) , with a goal of creating the system by 2008. The idea was further developed in the Communication "Outline GMES EU Action Plan (Initial Period: 2001-2003)" (3) , 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 Service 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 released in September 2002.

GMES is also a key element of the "Aeronautics & Space" priority of the 6 th EU Research Framework Programme (FP6 2002-2006) and will feature in the 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 that will take place in Johannesburg, South Africa, in September 2002, as a follow-up to the 1997 Kyoto conference on global climate change.

For further information on European space policy and GMES please visit:
(1) COM(2000)597 and ESA/C(2000)67, rev.1
(2) COM(2001)31
(3) COM(2001)609 final

DN: IP/02/1055 Date: 15/07/2002

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