A lot has been said and written on climate change. Some call it a disturbing truth that cannot be denied. Others are more cynical and consider that there has always been a warming up and cooling down of the earth.
In my view it is important to avoid emotions and instead to focus on the facts. We know that Europe is not always the most ambitious continent in the world, for example in the field of innovation, entrepreneurship and economic growth. But in the field of climate change we can be proud of what Europe is doing.
If all the satellites envisaged within the Copernicus programme become operational, Europe will have the world's most developed observation capacity. The European earth observation can be used for international policy, as climate change is a global problem.
"If all the satellites envisaged within Copernicus become operational, Europe will have the world's most developed observation capacity"
The programme has been designed to provide monitoring of land, air and atmosphere; while most marine and water monitoring is included in the security and emergency services. In addition to these five services, a climate change service is foreseen.
One of the main objectives of this programme is to provide reliable indicators. This would present a continuous picture of our evolving world to the scientific community and public authorities. It is important to stress that Europe will be the first continent to have such a unique information pool.
Furthermore, additional benefits will be derived thanks to the use of the data by private business and European citizens who will also have access to Copernicus services and downstream applications.
Monitoring the environment in order to support its protection and sustainable use is the 'raison d'être' of Copernicus. The availability of up-to-date indicators about the state of the environment, in its different components, can provide the 'raw material' for a lot of applications useful to sustainable resource management and biodiversity preservation. This data can be used in resource-saving applications ranging from precision agricultural techniques to forest management, from marine resource management to pollution control.
Preliminary results show that climate change is real and that we should be worried about it. Climate change should be taken seriously as it places a mortgage on future generations. The European economic and social committee (EESC) has stressed the requirement for action in this field, underlining the need to develop the network of satellites, while emphasising that this should be paid from the community budget.
The EESC was actively involved in RIO+20, and hopes that Europe will continue to take the lead in this important process at COP21 in Paris. At this crucial event, the international community must achieve tangible results, supported by all partners.
As president of the EESC, let me underline not only the potential environmental impact, but the social and economic impacts of Copernicus - it is a tool to create jobs. Synergies between ecologic and economic objectives constitute the basis of the programme.
The EESC has launched this project in order to facilitate SME involvement in the space economy, especially in the midstream and downstream activities, and not only for the space-related industry.
"Climate change should be taken seriously as it places a mortgage on future generations"
A lot of downstream applications are envisaged and many examples have already been provided on how private businesses could use this data to develop or widen their market sector. Some examples of practical applications include solar power site selection and plant monitoring, damage assessment for insurance claim management, precision farming and oil pipeline encroachment monitoring.
New opportunities will arise for SMEs in particular, as they will benefit most from the availability of free data. It is true that big businesses already have the opportunity to buy very high resolution data because they can afford this type of investment and enjoy subsequent returns.
But the case for SMEs is different - Copernicus will provide them with data of sufficiently high resolution to develop new businesses without the need for substantial and risky investment.