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Planning a green economy with Earth Observations

Developing policies and programming operations related to the green economy require data and scientific evidence.

The 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20, which acknowledged that green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication as one of the important tools available for achieving sustainable development, also recognized the importance of space-technology-based data, in situ monitoring and reliable geospatial information for sustainable development. In this context, the contribution of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) was acknowledged.

Earth Observations (EO) are collected by a wide diversity of sensors on-board various monitoring platforms such as ships, buoys, aircrafts, balloons, drones, or satellites. They can also be ground-based or acquired by citizens using for instance their smart phones or other mobile devices. Such monitoring sensors and the related Earth observation information systems are managed by a high diversity of public and private entities around the world.

GEOSS is a global infrastructure using land, sea, air and space-based Earth observation systems to provide comprehensive environmental data, information and analyses. GEOSS connects and strengthen co-operation efforts among existing observing and processing systems within their mandate. These include, for example, the World Meteorological Organisation’s Information System (WIS) or the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON), among many others. The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) is coordinating efforts to build and implement the GEOSS. The European Commission is currently one of the four co-chairs of this initiative, together with the United States, South Africa and China.

A video shows through the examples of the Global Mercury Observation System and the Global Forest Observing Initiative how GEOSS can support Convention and Policies as well as pioneering activity in the environmental monitoring using highly advanced e-infrastructures.

Under the Environment theme of the European 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development more than 50 GEO-related projects were funded with a total EU contribution of over €200 million euros in support of four main areas:

  • Integration of European activities within the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), supporting European activities at global level
  • Cross-cutting research activities relevant to GEO understanding, modelling and predicting environmental phenomena
  • Emerging Earth observation activities, supporting the development of European earth observation systems and activities in areas of environmental research needed for GEOSS
  • Developing capacity-building activities in the domain of Earth observation, providing support to international research initiatives in which Europe would contribute to the development of observing systems.

Capacity building activities targeted both European and non-European countries. For instance, the project entitled “A framework for enhancing Earth Observation capacity for Agriculture and Forest Management in Africa as a contribution to GEOSS” (AGRICAB) strengthened African capacities in the use of Earth Observation satellite data for sustainably managing crops, livestock and forest resources. AGRICAB project brought together satellite data providers, researchers, capacity builders, operational practitioners and decision makers, to build a sustainable and comprehensive framework for strengthening the existing African capacities in using EO for better monitoring, understanding and managing natural resources.

The Horizon 2020 Societal Challenge 5 on Climate action, resource efficiency and raw material foresees an activity in direct support to the EU research and innovation contribution to GEOSS. It is about developing comprehensive and sustained global environmental observation and information systems and has the goal of ensuring the delivery of the long-term data and information required to address this societal challenge. An important emphasis is put on the need to support large, long-term initiatives able to provide the necessary knowledge base for the implementation EU policies, such as those in the field of development and environment.

If you want to share your story of how Earth observations are being used to address global societal and environmental challenges, you can participate now in the GEO 2015 Short Video Competition for the GEO-XII Plenary and Ministerial Summit that will take place in Mexico City on 13 November 2015. Winning videos will be shown during the GEO Ministerial Summit. The deadline for submissions is 30 September 2015. More details are available here