Earthquakes, floods, oil spills and other major disasters should be better managed in future thanks to a new earth observation satellite system to be developed in the EU by 2014. On Wednesday, Parliament gave its green light for the system's initial phase (2011-13) and approved €107 million in extra funding to make it fully operational.
Setting up this new Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) satellite system would enable the EU to collect its own data - most of which currently comes from American satellites. Thanks to MEPs' efforts, Parliament's deal with Council will provide for open and free of charge access to this data, so all local, regional and national players can use the data to help manage any natural disaster. This should also boost a "downstream market" for which small and medium-sized software companies can develop new applications.
Satellites could serve to monitor climate change and help policy makers to take better decisions on agriculture, forestry, energy, urban development, infrastructure or transport.
The EU funding foreseen for the 3-year initial operations phase is €107 million, supplemented by €209 million from the EU seventh research framework programme's "space" theme for accompanying research actions.
Parliament approved the regulation with 624 votes in favour, 33 against and 12 abstentions.
What is GMES?
The primary purpose of the GMES system is to provide detailed environment and security data, tailored to user needs. The programme should boost innovation, research and technological development, and also become a key tool for supporting biodiversity, ecosystem management, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.
In the so-called "pre-operational validation phase", GMES services were developed through EU seventh research framework programme projects. To enter the operational phase, the programme needed a new legal basis and additional funding, which the new regulation will provide, to start initial operations in 2011-2013. The GMES programme should be fully operational by 2014.