The EU and the European Space Agency are creating a global monitoring system for environment and security (GMES), which will provide geo-information that is vital in helping to prevent loss of life and diminish material and environmental damage in disaster and crisis management. On 6 December the Council adopted a resolution on the benefits of space applications for the security of citizens.
Once fully operational, the GMES will be one of the world's most complete systems of earth observation data: it will connect all of Europe’s national ground, air and space assets and thus unite the information streams provided by them into a complete, integrated and consistent system, complementing it with additional information that is currently not available from national sensors.
A report drawn up by the European Space Policy Institute (ESPI, Vienna) under the auspices of the Polish Presidency of the Council of the EU shows that the socio-economic benefits offered by the GMES can be estimated at 67 billion euro.
Space applications can contribute to the security of citizens through weather forecasting, monitoring of population flows, effective emergency communication, pinpoint satellite navigation, terrain mapping, maritime surveillance, pollution control, search-and-rescue and many other services and tasks.
GMES data can contribute to the implementation of the common agricultural policy and the sustainable fisheries policy, thus ensuring our long-term food security.
Ministers stressed that the GMES is a key programme for crisis management operations, civil protection and humanitarian assistance.
They underlined that the GMES, in addition to being the European contribution to the global earth observation efforts (GEOS), is also key to ensuring Europe’s independent access to strategic information on such politically and economically sensitive topics as climate change and CO2 reductions.
The Council therefore stressed that the GMES needs to be fully implemented and its continuous operation needs to be ensured for the next 25-30 years.
Disaster management and prevention
The number of disasters reported in Europe is increasing. Currently five EU countries - France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom and Greece - are among the world's top ten countries for disaster occurrence, both natural and man-made, such as industrial accidents.
During the last decade Europe suffered almost 100 000 fatalities, and more than 11 million people were affected. Reported losses amount to more than 200 billion euro.
The GMES can help prevent loss of life and material damage, for example, by helping to produce relevant mapping in the case of a disaster and to forecast storms, fires and flooding, and by providing rescue operations with the best possible situation awareness.
Council resolution on "Benefits of space for the security of European citizens" (pdf)
European Space Policy Institute report
Global monitoring system for environment and security (GMES)