Antonio Rodot, ESA’s Director General and Philippe Busquin, Research
Commissioner and responsible for space policy, today opened the first
meeting of the GMES Steering Committee in Brussels. This meeting brings
together, for the first time, the users and suppliers of GMES services and
technologies. The Steering Committee will assist in implementation of the
joint ESA/EU action plan on Global Monitoring for Environment and
Security (GMES). The goal set by ESA and the European Union is to develop
and bring into operational service by 2008 an autonomous European global
monitoring capability for environmental and security purposes.

The GMES initiative aims to federate Europe’s activities in satellite
observation and remote sensing, in support of public policies. GMES
targets improved use of Europe’s existing and planned capabilities and
infrastructures and development of mechanisms for collecting and
distributing data in support of European policy goals in various fields,
such as the environment, development cooperation, civil protection and the
fight against fraud. GMES features prominently in the Aeronautics and
Space priority in the Community’s Sixth Research framework programme
(2002-2006). Applications include such activities as monitoring the global
environment, detecting natural disasters, managing mass movements of
refugees.

As Antonio Rodot observed: “GMES has, along with Galileo, been identified
as a priority area for cooperation between ESA and the EU; ESA will be
working hand in hand with the Commission to draw up an action plan in this
area, define services and products and build an appropriate European
infrastructure”.

The Steering Committee will be co-chaired by ESA and the European
Commission, and will include representatives of the European Council
Member States, the European Environment Agency, EUMETSAT and other key
players in the areas of security and the environment.

GMES and Galileo are two pillars of Europe’s space policy, developed
jointly by the European Commission and the European Space Agency. This
meeting will be a further step in building that policy. It follows the
successful launch on 1 March of ESA’s ENVISAT (the largest Earth
observation satellite ever built and a key contribution to GMES). It is
also taking place just a few days before formal adoption of the Galileo
space navigation programme by the EU Transport Ministers following the
positive decision in Edinburgh by the Ministers responsible for space
affairs.

Background

A key priority of the GMES initiative is to develop innovative,
user-driven applications and services in the separate but complementary
areas of global monitoring for environment and security. Combining space,
land-based and airborne technologies, GMES will help develop innovative
tools and applications to assist decision and policy makers at the
European, national and even local levels.

Natural and man-made disasters take a staggering toll in economic and
human terms:

  • damage caused by floods in France in 1999: EUR 500 million
  • average yearly costs from flooding in the USA: US$ 1.8 billion; from
    storms: US$ 1.8 billion

  • cost of one single environmental disaster, the Amoco-Cadiz oil spill:
    EUR 9.3 billion

  • cost in human life: 665 000 people killed over the last decade by
    natural disasters.

    GMES, a joint initiative of the European Commission and of the European
    Space Agency will play an important role in responding to such disasters.
    Combining data from ENVISAT and other terrestrial, aerial and seaborne
    observation systems, GMES will allow European researchers, private
    companies and public authorities to better monitor climate change, track
    environmental pollution, and react to emergencies; It will also make a
    major contribution in the areas of safety and security. In particular, it
    should help optimise maritime and other traffic, improve cross-border
    responses to catastrophic events, enable refugee movements to be
    monitored, and facilitate the distribution of food and medical aid.

    At the global level, GMES will provide new verification tools to
    contribute to detailed monitoring of the implementation of international
    protocols, such as the Kyoto protocol on climate change, as well as
    security and international aid agreements. At the other end of the
    spectrum, GMES will help local authorities pinpoint problems (e.g.
    shoreline erosion) and improve their response to catastrophic events
    (floods, mudslides, avalanches, forest fires etc.). At European level,
    looking beyond environment and security, GMES will furnish new objective
    data to support a broad range of Community policies – notably regional
    development, transport, agriculture, enlargement, development and foreign
    policy. In all these areas, the 6th framework programme will bring players
    together, combine their needs and federate their efforts.

    This ambitious programme is about consolidating Europe’s capabilities in a
    sector where it currently depends on data from other sources. Development
    of a GMES infrastructure built around a constellation of satellites is
    also a significant opportunity for the aerospace industry. At the meeting
    of ESA’s Council at ministerial level in Edinburgh in November 2001,
    funding for the GMES programme was granted on the Agency side for the next
    5 years.

    GMES priorities and organisational aspects

    Priorities in the GMES “initial period” will be to deliver pilot
    information products and services on key environment and security issues,
    to assess current capabilities, and to define a future systems
    infrastructure.

    The GMES Steering Committee, established in Brussels on 19 March 2002 and
    made up of senior representatives of the different stakeholders, will
    drive the GMES initiative and assist in the implementation of the joint
    ESA/EU GMES action plan. Additionally, a high level GMES Forum will foster
    ongoing dialogue between all parties involved.

    For further information, please contact:

    Michel Verbauwhede

    ESA Brussels Office

    Tel: + 32.(0)2.743.30.70

    Fax: +32.(0)2.743.30.71

    ESA, Media Relations Office

    Tel: +33(0)1.53.69.7155

    Fax: +33(0)1.53.69.7690