Securing the Copernicus programme: Why EU earth observation matters

Briefing 06-04-2017

The Copernicus programme is a user-driven programme which provides six free-of-charge operational services (atmosphere monitoring, marine environment monitoring, land monitoring, climate change, emergency management and security) to EU, national, and regional institutions, as well as to the private sector. The programme builds on the initiative on global monitoring for environment and security launched in 2001. It aims at filling the gaps in European earth observation capacities. Data is provided from space infrastructures, particularly the sentinel missions developed under the programme, and in situ infrastructure supported by the Member States. Copernicus services are mainly operated by European Union (EU) agencies. Copernicus requires a high level of continuity in data and service provision. A strong political commitment at EU level is required to provide adequate funding for the development of the operational earth observation missions and services. The EU – under the framework programme for research and operational programmes – and the European Space Agency (ESA) have invested more than €7 billion in Copernicus since 2002. By the end of 2017, four of the six sentinel missions should be fully deployed and the last of the six services should become fully operational. As Copernicus reaches its full operational stage, the focus of the programme is shifting towards the uptake of the services and the development of a downstream sector that would provide additional commercial services to the users. This aspect is a key priority of the space strategy adopted by the European Commission in October 2016. The development of the downstream sector is dependent on the long-term continuity of service, to be ensured by improved governance of the programme and renewed long-term political and financial commitments for the next EU budgetary period.