Nov 17, 2015

GEO commits to unleashing open data in a bid to address global challenges, including climate change

In a time of exponential data growth, human development and climate change, the intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO) announced Friday that members are committed to sharing data on Earth observations.

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“We promote open access to data, knowledge and information,” Dr. Jianlin Cao (pictured right), China’s vice minister of science and technology, notes in a GEO statement issued last Friday following the conclusion of the week-long 12th plenary session and fourth ministerial summit in Mexico City.

“Data sharing is key for the Global Earth Observation System of Systems,” Dr. Cao continued. “As co-chair of the Asia-Pacific region, we will implement more activities to enforce GEO co-operation with other countries, such as capacity-building, data sharing, eco-environment, disaster monitoring and climate change observing,” he said.

“As we near the historic Paris climate talks, it’s clear open data and international collaboration are key to countries moving the needle on climate change,” U.S. interior secretary Sally Jewell (pictured left) says in the statement. “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,” Jewell emphasized.

A number of other decisions were also reached at the conference – hosted by the Instituto Nacional de Estadistica y Geografia – which was attended by more than 400 delegates from 41 GEO governments and 39 partner organizations, reports the GEO, consisting of 100 member states, including the European Commission, and 92 participating organizations.

The GEO statement notes that major achievements include the adoption of a 10-year strategic plan, running from 2016 to 2025, and a ministerial declaration that focuses on harnessing critical environmental observations to enable leaders to make better-informed decisions for the benefit of humanity at a time of rapid global change.

Against the backdrop of the recent adoption of the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development and an anticipated global agreement on climate change, new initiatives adopted by GEO include the following:

  • 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;
  • a regional program to share Earth observation data for agriculture, disaster risk reduction, water and biodiversity and ecosystem monitoring;
  • a new initiative to integrate Earth observations into national plans to attain the global goals for sustainable development; and
  • renewal of an initiative of China, Europe and the United States to provide critical Earth observation data to developing countries.

“We have reached a tipping-point where GEO has to move its focus towards successful societal delivery. We should not underestimate this formidable challenge,” European commissioner Carlos Moedas (pictured left) says.

“The European Union, through its Horizon 2020 and Copernicus programs will continue to be a driving force to help GEOSS reach its full maturity – a GEOSS which is designed for and accessible by all contributors and all users,” Moedas goes on to say.