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Power of Shared Earth Observations

A Ministerial Declaration, issued at the Ministerial Summit and twelfth plenary of the intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO) in November, made commitments to harness and share critical environmental observations to enable leaders to make better-informed decisions for the benefit of humanity at a time of rapid global change.

“As we near the historic Paris climate talks, it is clear open data and international collaboration are key to countries moving the needle on climate change,” said U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. “We can and should share Earth observation data to help address climate challenges because science and open data are critical to understanding land, water, wildlife and climate change. They must be at the heart of every policy decision – no country can solve it alone.”

The GEO ten-year Strategic Plan (2016–2025) was adopted to build the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS). “We have reached a tipping-point where GEO has to move its focus towards successful societal delivery. We should not underestimate this formidable challenge,” said European Commissioner Carlos Moedas. South African Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor reminded delegates of their “responsibility to ensure the targets of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development are met by providing adequate funding for scientific research and global collaboration.”

The GEO launched several initiatives at the plenary, including:
• An initiative to integrate Earth observations into national plans to attain the Global Goals for Sustainable Development;
• A global Marine Biodiversity Observation Network, including an Arctic to Antarctic network linking coastal observing centres in the Americas to measure species distribution and habitat;
• AmeriGEOSS, a regional programme to share Earth observation data for agriculture, disaster risk reduction, water and biodiversity, and ecosystem monitoring; and
• Renewal of GEONETCast, an initiative of China, Europe and the USA to provide critical Earth observation data to developing countries.

The GEO plenary and Ministerial Summit took place in Mexico City from 10 to 13 November. The thirteenth GEO plenary will be held in St Petersburg in November 2016.