May 30, 2013

Copernicus: The EU Earth Observation Programme - good for jobs and the environment!

Estimated Article Reading Time: 3 min.

(Brussels, 29 May 2013). In a world facing an increased risk of natural and other disasters the new Copernicus programme will ensure the regular observation and monitoring of the atmosphere, oceans, and continental surfaces, providing reliable, validated and guaranteed information to support a broad range of environmental and security applications and decisions. At the same time, it is a driver for economic growth, encouraging small and medium-sized enterprises to develop user-driven services – thereby creating growth and jobs in a sector of the economy that is clearly future-oriented. Therefore, the European Commission today proposed the new earth observation programme called Copernicus (1), with a budget of €3.786 bn for the period 2014 – 2020. This amount will be needed to pay for the development, launch and operations of a series of satellites (the ‘Sentinels’) and to establish six operational services which will transform satellite imagery into readily usable information products (MEMO/13/478).

European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said: “Copernicus presents a huge opportunity for the European Union as it will provide information on our environment. It will monitor climate change and will improve security for our citizens. It will trigger investments made by companies delivering space infrastructure and will thus create growth and jobs. It will also encourage downstream industry, namely the people who develop innovative applications or services to ensure that citizens and enterprises benefit from such public investment.”

Important services for environment and security

Copernicus is the new name of the European Commission’s Earth Observation Programme, previously known as GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security). The programme aims at providing Europe with a continuous, independent and reliable access to earth observation data and information.

It is structured in six different services: marine, atmosphere, land and climate change monitoring as well as support to emergency and security services. Copernicus uses data from satellites and in-situ sensors such as buoys or air sensors to provide timely and reliable information and forecasting to support (for example) agriculture and fisheries, land use and urban planning, the fight against forest fires, disaster response, maritime transport or air pollution monitoring.

Copernicus will provide the following services:

  • a land monitoring service providing information to support the creation and adjustment of European policies, such as environmental policies on nature protection and biodiversity, natural resources, environmental hazards, environmental impact assessment, the water framework directive, regional policies, territorial cohesion and spatial development, common transport policy and SME policies;
  • a marine service providing information on the state of the oceans, including sea level, currents, salinity levels and oil slicks;
  • an atmosphere service providing information on chemical changes in the atmosphere driving climate change, air quality, as well as information on solar radiation;
  • an emergency response support service to address natural disasters e.g. weather-driven hazards (e.g. storms, fires, floods), geophysical hazards (e.g. earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, landslides and subsidence), man-made disasters and humanitarian and civil emergencies – the latter emergencies are complex and require multi-disciplinary response;
  • a security support service, e.g. in the field of maritime surveillance by coast guards or critical infrastructure monitoring to reduce the number of terrorist attacks.
  • a climate change service will be developed transversely to model climate change scenarios by collecting reliable and continuous data on specific indicators.

Huge potential for innovation and business development

Recent studies have analysed the likely impact of Copernicus on the European economy and have indicated an expected minimum financial benefit of some €30 bn by 2030, along with the creation of some 50,000 jobs. Moreover, provided favourable conditions prevail in the downstream market (including the assurance of a level playing field via a full, free and open Copernicus data policy) it is anticipated that cumulative benefits could increase further by a factor of between 5 and 10, leading to benefits in the order of €200 bn by 2030. (MEMO/12/966).

Carlo Corazza (+32 2 295 17 52) Twitter: @ECspokesCorazza
Sara Tironi (+32 2 299 04 03)

(1):Since the programme was fully entering in to the operational phase, the name was changed into Copernicus. It is homage to a great European scientist and observer: Nicolaus Copernicus. The Copernicus theory of the heliocentric universe is considered by many to be the main precursor of modern science. He opened to man an infinite universe, previously limited by the rotation of the planets and the sun around the Earth, and created a world without borders. Humanity was able to benefit from his insight and this set in motion the spirit of scientific research which allowed us to have a better understanding of the world we live in.

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