The European Commission has signalled its intention to overhaul the way environmental information is collected and analysed within the EU.
The aim is to move from the present paper-heavy system to a more streamlined ICT system.
The type of data to be streamlined includes information on how the climate is changing, whether European waters are improving and how nature is reacting to pollution and changing land use. Such information should be made available to all and be easily understood, the Commission proposed.
To this end, it has established a European Shared Environment Information System (SEIS), the objective of which is to better tie together all existing data gathering and information flows using modern tools such as the internet and satellite technology.
“Timely, relevant and reliable information on the environment is absolutely necessary for decision-makers to respond to the environmental problems of our time but this is not enough. Our citizens are also entitled to know the quality of the air and water where they live or if floods, droughts or pollution are risking their property and livelihood,” said Environment Commissioner, Stavros Dimas. “We must thus improve the way we collect, analyse and communicate information on our environment.”
More than 70 of the several hundred pieces of environmental legislation in force in the EU require member states to report on specific aspects of the environment within their territory. A large amount of environmental data is thus collected by various levels of public authorities throughout the EU.
At present, this wealth of information is neither made available in a timely manner nor in a format that policy-makers and the public can readily understand and use.
The SEIS will store and link environmentally-relevant data and information in environmental databases throughout the EU. The proposed SEIS is a decentralised but integrated web-enabled information system based on a network of public information providers sharing environmental data and information in real time.
A detailed implementation plan for SEIS will be presented at some stage in 2008. EU financial support to complement the national and regional budgets required to implement SEIS will come from the Research Framework Programme, LIFE, the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP) and EU Structural Funds.
By Niall Byrne
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