Kopernikus the new umbrella name for Europe's investment in climate environment and security

EU's efforts to build a new infrastructure for Environment and Security in Europe have been going on for over ten years. The concept has been called GMES - Global Monitoring for Environment and Security. The Vice President of the European Commission, Günter Verheugen, declared the new name at a large GMES Forum on 16-17 September in Lille in The meeting was intended to demonstrate that GMES now has reached a stage where new services begin to be produced as was agreed at the Ministerial Summit in Gothenburg in June 2001. During the French presidency of the EU, Kopernikus will have a much stronger focus on the climate issue; understanding and monitoring needed for mitigation as well as adaptation.

Ten years ago the EU Commission together with a number of European space agencies took an initiative that went under the name of GMES, Global Monitoring for Environment and Security. GMES has been an action for collection, processing, dissemination and use of environmental information. '

Satellite information is an essential part of the GMES concept but measurements from the ground systems are equally important and it is also vital that information from various sources is well integrated. "Security" is first and foremost to monitor the risk of natural disasters, the adverse effects and to plan humanitarian actions.

Europe, that has often been the driving force in global environmental and climate topics, want GMES to secure a European autonomy as regards environmental issues. We need European common tools and data sets to reach the requirements of European and global directives and conventions.

The requirements for better preparedness for extreme weather events such as floods and storms have also increased with the increase of society's vulnerability. Experiences with major adverse effects have shown to be very costly. In addition to natural events there are man-made risks and a threat in the form of e.g. oil spills at sea and air pollution, both large scale and acute in limited areas.

GMES became Kopernikus at a meeting in Lille

Vice-President Günter Verheugen, Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry, said:" Today we honour a great European - Nikolaus Kopernikus- by dedicating his name to our European project for Global Monitoring for Environment and Security, formerly known as GMES. As Kopernikus was decisive to better understand our world, the monitoring will help us to save our planet. This is also a very concrete demonstration of the technological capacity and expertise of Europe's space industry"

Information gathered and relayed by Kopernikus helps to improve the management of our natural resources, monitor the quality of our waters and air, plan our cities and prevent urban sprawl, ease the flow of transportation, optimise our agricultural activities and promote renewable energy.
Furthermore, Kopernikus will enhance people?s safety in numerous ways, for example by providing early warnings of natural disasters, thereby helping prevent loss of life and damage to property. It also will provide a basis of enhanced modelling activities to help us better to understand the drivers of climate change.

Kopernikus will use terrestrial, maritime and atmosphere networks and satellites to observe the environment and the natural phenomena occurring on the planet. Kopernikus does not replace existing European capacities, but rather complements them with a view to fulfilling user needs and guaranteeing sustainability and European autonomy in the long term.

The initiative has been called Kopernikus in memory of the famous astronomer who greatly advanced the science of his time. Nikolaus Kopernikus was a true European as his family was partly German and partly Polish. He wrote in Latin and German and studied and worked in different countries in Europe.

During the meeting, a series of lectures were provided by French ministers, commissioners and many other important persons. All these lectures presented the ways in which Europe will benefit from spending; it comes from global climate monitoring to the monitoring of refugees in small boats in the Mediterranean.

Time for Kopernikus to be operational

EU Heads of State adopted at the Gothenburg Summit in 2001 a resolution aimed at achieving an autonomous and operational capability in the exploitation of geo-spatial information services by 2008. Now this year, the GMES have reached a degree of operational capacity. In the large hall in Lille Grand Palais a very large amount of preoperationella services were demonstrated. There were also representatives from Sweden in the demonstration stands, from Lantmäteriet / Metria, Swedish Rescue Services Agency (SRSA) and from SMHI.

However, it will take at least five years before Kopernikus has reached a more mature operational level. The development will take further steps as the new satellite programs will be deployed and the related processing procedures, data communications, etc. develop.

Kopernikus is made up of a European infrastructure, Core Services, for the atmosphere, oceans, land and also for critical situations (emergencies). On this infrastructure, which should be promptly available and basically free, so called "Downstream Services" will be built, services in different scales and for all possible needs. These can be both public and commercial.

The European Meteorological Infrastructure as a foundation for Kopernikus

Many of the speakers, mainly the politicians, expressed the importance of not creating new structures and costs whereas infrastructures already are established. It was pointed out that meteorology has created a model of European cooperation and also an existing infrastructure, EMI (the European Meteorological Infrastructure).

Lars Prahm who is Director General of EUMETSAT said that Kopernikus is not a vision; meteorology has already created the EMI, a Kopernikus in a smaller scale. We have a long-term satellite programme, we have monitoring stations that continuously provide us with the current weather and atmosphere condition, we have the capacity of daily processing data from dozens of satellites in the ECMWF and we provide to Europe, through the National Meteorological Services, warnings as well as official and commercial services.

Kopernikus and monitoring of climate change

Work on climate monitoring has not been a very obvious topic within GMES. The French presidency of the EU wants to change that. The French ministers who spoke at the Forum GMES-2008 stressed that the satellite ventures, and the combination of measurements of the atmospheric, marine and land environment, advanced modelling and analysis of the climate system, generate entirely new opportunities for Europe to strengthen the focus on the climate issue; understanding and monitoring needed for mitigation as well as adaptation. This aim was linked to the Kyoto Protocol and its successor, as well as to the future IPCC work.

In a year Sweden has the EU presidency and since environmental and climate issues are a Swedish political priority, Kopernikus could be an area where Sweden is acting.