Environment and security
Kopernikus, Europe’s ‘Big Brother’
By Anne Eckstein | Tuesday 28 October 2008
The need for the European Union to have a space policy worthy of the name is based on the assertion that, to address crises caused by nature or mankind, it has to be able to count on the most refined and reliable data possible. Having means to observe the earth by combining space capacities and structures on the ground is, for this purpose, strategically clear. The Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) system, dubbed Kopernikus, responds to this requirement.
As was noted in a joint report, in March 2008, by the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, and the European Commission, the risks generated by climate change are not only humanitarian. They are also political and security-related and the conflicts relating to access to resources (water, fish and agricultural resources) associated with demographic pressures are an explosive cocktail.
In this context, if the EU wants to have an influence on events, it must use all the instruments that it has at its disposal: those coming under the European Security and Defence Policy and the Common Foreign and Security Policy as well as those related to the prevention and management of crises or policies to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change.
The EU must, in this sense, improve its knowledge (research, analysis, surveillance and alert systems), assess and strengthen its reaction capacities (civilian protection, instruments to prevent and manage crises, both civilian and military), assess security risks region by region, strengthen cooperation in terms of the detection and monitoring of threats to security and promote the development of security plans at the regional level. In this respect, Kopernikus is an essential tool.
Space and earth observation
Kopernikus, which was set up in 2004, is the result of a joint EU and European Space Agency (ESA) initiative. It became operational as planned in 2008 and has been offering its services, in a phase called a pre-operational phase, since 17 September. These services cover, in the first instance, the environment (state and management of natural resources, links with climate change, management of the territory).
The GMES Atmosphere Service is especially dedicated to the quality of air and a new service of the same kind supplying information for the monitoring of climate parameters is expected to be put in place shortly. Kopernikus will also provide backup for emergency situations and for security in the event of natural disasters or humanitarian crises: an early warning system, advanced modelling work to help improve understanding of the factors of climate change (prevention) and support for humanitarian aid (reaction).
The space element is based on the use of existing satellites and the preparation of the next generation of satellites (ESA programme) with support from the EU’s 7th Framework Programme for research and in connection with the Galileo satellite navigation system and the INSPIRE (Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe) initiative.
The earth element or observation in situ covers all the networks of sensors deployed on land, at sea, on artificial lakes and in the atmosphere in order to measure and provide a complete description of the terrestrial system and all the studies aiming to collect economic data, on the occupation and use of soil, geology, the state of soil, biodiversity, altitude, administrative limits, transport networks and public services.
Over time, Kopernikus will gather all the information from different sources and will present them in a useful form. A unique network will bring together all the networks that have not yet been connected, allowing the data to be centralised and managed more effectively.
The funding of the infrastructure and basic technologies needed for the first series of services comes from the ESA (space component) and the EU’s 7th Research Framework Programme. The budget is topped off with the pooling of resources at Community, national and regional levels for the components in situ and the management of data due to the fact that responsibilities are shared at different levels in these areas. A financial contribution must also be provided by the establishment of partnerships between the public and private sectors. Over time, the GMES is expected to be funded by the users. In terms of management, the responsibilities are spread between the EU (definition of priorities), the ESA (space component) and member states (coordination and implementation at local level).
Funding for Kopernikus is assured until 2010. According to the EU’s Enterprise and Industry Commissioner, Günter Verheugen, the Commission is expected to present, by the end of this year, a communication on the future of the programme, its governance and its funding, and to present a proposal for a decision for 2011 and 2012 on this last point. In any event, the funding for Kopernikus has a duty to be “stable and sustainable," as the EU Council stated, on 26 September. The EU27, which, on this occasion, confirmed their will to equip the EU with a real space policy, stressed the need to ensure that it had “adequate financial plans […] which will have to take into account two specificities: the industrial sector, whose competitiveness must be helped, and the need to find long-term funding for space infrastructure, in particular in the area of observation”.
[R] + photo (Grégoire)