A global setting for European environmental monitoring — measuring what we must manage

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Courtesy of European Environment Agency (EEA)

Food production, energy security, the availability of safe drinking water and healthy ecosystems are all drivers of stable economic growth. The recent economic upheavals have underlined this fact and shown just how important it is that the planet's natural capital is managed as well as its economic assets if society's basic needs are to be met.

Today's international frameworks, conventions and multilateral environmental agreements (1) aim to achieve this, but their effectiveness is being held back by a fundamental lack of up-to-date, quality‑assured information on the earth's resources. It is therefore vital that the existing global network of in‑situ and space observation and monitoring systems be strengthened, mechanisms for data sharing and exchange between national, regional and global activities be improved, efforts to secure agreement on open access to environmental information be intensified and a greater ability for citizens to obtain and gather environmental information, relevant to their everyday lives, be developed.

Many countries contribute resources and scientific and technical expertise to the field of global observation and monitoring. Much of Europe's support has arisen because of the significant body of European environmental legislation and sectoral management plans or via the involvement of European scientists in international research efforts. More recently, Europe launched its Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) programme, which brings together relevant parts of industry, academia, Member States, the European Commission, and specialised institutions such as the European Environment Agency, European Space Agency and European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting, to deliver a range of environmental and security-related services.

Significant questions remain, however, as how to best build a system of in-situ and earth observations that can provide reliable monitoring of the global environment, generate information for enforcement and legally required environmental management purposes, help establish the effectiveness of different multilateral agreements and policies, provide a basis for future scenario development and be sustained over many decades.

The European Environment Agency (EEA) held a two and a half day senior-level meeting in Copenhagen (13–15 May 2009) on 'A global setting for European environmental monitoring — measuring what we must manage' to explore concrete ideas for building a sustainable and focused observing capacity that would best satisfy ongoing European needs, and provide inputs from GMES and other programmes to the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).

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