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The new European Space Strategy for Climate Change

While the EU makes Climate Change prevention one of its top priorities, the contribution of space policy in this area is booming today, especially regarding the next multiannual financial framework (2021-2028), for which the European Commission proposes to allocate 16 billion euro “to maintain and strengthen the EU’s leadership in the field of space“.

The European space sector: a guarantor of accurate and reliable data 

As Petteri Taalas, General Secretary of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), said at the opening of the COP23 about Climate Change last November: “The last three years have been the warmest ever and are part of the long-term global warming trend.” In this context, the contribution of satellites to Earth observation makes it possible to identify practical solutions to counteract this trend, for example by measuring the soil moisture, the extent of deforestation, the ice thickness, the CO2 level or even the ocean level.

Amongst others, it’s the Copernicus programme, which is now giving Europe an autonomous capacity to observe and monitor the Earth. In 2001, the EU and the European Space Agency (ESA) launched the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) to streamline the use of data and provide reliable services. GMES, which became Copernicus in 2012, aims to gather all the data obtained by environmental satellites and in situ measurement instruments, in order to produce a global and complete view of the state of the planet. It’s a series of so-called Sentinel operational satellites that have the unprecedented in-orbit capability to bring valuable information for climate modeling, marine and river pollution, crop progress for agriculture, monitoring of forests or oceans.
For the 2021-2028 period, the Commission proposes to allocate a budget of 5,8 billion euro (against 4,2 billion on the previous period) to the Copernicus programme, a proposal that demonstrates the will of a competitive European space and services industry, while ensuring Europe’s independent access to environmental knowledge and key technologies for observing and collecting geo-data. The Jason-CS-A / Sentinel-6A and Jason-CS-B / Sentinel-6B satellites, which are part of the Copernicus program and are specifically dedicated to the topography of the seabed, will be launched in 2020 and 2026. They will be positioned in the same orbit as their predecessors and will be equipped with the same type of instruments to ensure consistency of measurements.

Ensuring Europe’s excellence in space

The Commission stressed on the importance of ensuring the continued operation of the services offered by Galileo, EGNOS and Copernicus (the EU three flagship space programmes) and on preparing new generations of these services. The operation of those space systems directly contributes to other EU policies, in particular, research and innovation policy, security policy and migration, industrial policy, the common agricultural policy, fisheries policy, trans-European networks, energy policy and development aid. According to a Market Report, from the European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency (GNSS), Copernicus, in itself, is expected to generate 67 to 131 billion euro in profits for European society between 2017 and 2035. Furthermore, the Space Programme has, in fact, similar objectives with other Union programmes, notably Horizon Europe, InvestEU Fund, European Defence Fund and European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI). Within this context, synergies between the EU space policy and other European programmes should be fostered to develop breakthrough solutions, especially as part of the Global Challenges pillar of Horizon Europe.

The Commission strategy proposes a range of actions to allow Europeans to fully seize the benefits offered by space and promote Europe’s leadership in this sector by increasing its share at the world space markets. The proposition thus aims at fostering a competitive and innovative European space sector and maintains Europe’s strategic autonomy while strengthening its global role in space.

In a nutshell

Over the last few years, the space industry has become legitimate and has demonstrated its essential contribution in the fight against climate change. Today, the many satellites in orbit provide data with unprecedented accuracy thanks to innovative European technological instruments. This progress concerns both the quality and quantity of the data collected, as well as the speed with which they can be recorded and used. Following the constant efforts of the various European countries within the ESA and the action of the CNES, Europe has acquired a powerful capacity to build, launch and operate satellites, and to use them to tackle the climate change policies. Indeed, the fight for climate is far from over, which is why it’s necessary to improve integrated spatial applications approaches and the interoperability of space systems and in situ systems. It’s also important to reinforce the European leadership position by supporting at European level the ever-increasing work of R&T and promoting international consortia in the field of space missions for scientists, technical teams, space and industrial agencies, as well as the cooperation between the Member States and the EU.


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