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Sectorial policies

Protecting the environment and tackling climate change

Environment monitoring helps to better understand and mitigate climate change by providing crucial information on vegetation, ocean currents, natural resources, pollution, air and water quality, and changes in greenhouse gases to name only a few. This is especially important given the growing concerns over climate change and its mitigation. Real-time observation can ensure the best use of our natural resources, monitor pollution and enable a fast response to natural disasters.

Deployment of the Copernicus system previously known as the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) system, is the EU and ESA contribution to this field of activity. Copernicus is part of a global system known as the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).

Following the signing of the Delegation Agreement between the European Commission and ESA on 28 February 2008, a set of satellites for Copernicus are being developed and delivered by the ESA. ESA is responsible for the coordination of all European contributions to the Copernicus Space Component, in line with user needs.

Optimising transport

A high-level of accuracy in positioning, navigation and timing via satellites contributes significantly to a modern and reliable transport sector for cars, planes and ships, e.g. fleet management, vessel traceability, collision prevention, speed control and assistance for ship manoeuvres.

High-precision satellite radio navigation hugely benefits transport policy, enabling users to determine with great accuracy their position and therefore improve their navigation capability. Some examples are ship and lorry fleet management, improving the monitoring of road and rail traffic, assisting in the mobilisation of emergency services and tracking goods in real-time as they move through the various transport systems. It is also expected that air-traffic control can be revolutionised.

With the advent of the European Galileo system, satellite navigation services will be more precise, quality assured and continuously available.

Increasing efficiency in agriculture and fisheries

Satellite-enabled applications are used in precision farming for improving the mapping of crop land in need of irrigation, harvest forecasts and fisheries control. This guarantees better food quality and food security while safeguarding the environment.

Development aid

The EU is the largest provider of development aid in the world. Space technologies strengthen development efforts and help other countries to develop access to information, raise skill levels and better manage resources.

Earth observation and positioning systems are used for a variety of tasks in support of development:

  • protecting soils and managing water resources
  • monitoring crops
  • providing early warning for floods or fire
  • monitoring tropical rainforests
  • ensuring coastal and maritime monitoring
  • forecasting and managing natural disasters, such as the spread of infectious diseases


The European Commission's Space Research and Development activities are coordinated within the framework of the overall European Space Policy, complementing the efforts of Member States and of other key players, mainly ESA.


Satellites can significantly improve health care and health education of patients via remote medical support. They also help in preventing and mitigating the risk of disease outbreaks.


Satellite telecommunications can connect even the most remote community to broadband internet access. The provision of education and knowledge-transfer programmes via content-rich services over the internet can significantly reduce the barriers to acquiring new skills thanks to satellite connectivity. The inspirational power of space, and especially space exploration, is also often the touchstone for young people's interest in studying science and technology - vital subjects for a future knowledge-based society.

Home affairs

Space technology applications like Earth observation, telecommunications, and navigation contributes to detecting illegal immigration, monitoring EU borders, preventing cross-border organised crime, and combating piracy at sea by tracking vessels.

Foreign affairs and security

Satellites help to significantly shorten response times in emergency situations during natural or man-made disasters. Swift damage images and assessment maps contribute to more efficient planning and delivery of relief efforts, and help in guiding rescue services. Such systems can also help with humanitarian aid by delivering accurate data for better decision-making and planning, and supporting disaster-relief operations and post-crisis reconstruction projects.

Helping Regions

Telecommunication satellites support all of today's communication needs where terrestrial solutions are limited. Space contributes thus to reducing regional imbalances by providing communities in remote areas with fast access to internet services. Bridging the digital divide is a major problem for many rural regions. Space provides the satellite bridge that links communities to fast internet services or other communication services. This brings not only educational benefits for citizens and enables services such as telemedicine, but it will also create new businesses. Earth observation services can also contribute to regional policy by monitoring marine and coastal environments, providing inter-regional risk-management services or alert services (for example, for flooding). They can monitor air quality, forestry and land use for better coordinated planning.

On 18 December 2007, NEREUS, the network of European regions using space technologies, was set up. This network was established to create a forum for dialogue, exchange and discussion between the regions users of space and stakeholders in European space policy (EU, ESA, their member states, the space industry), as well as to represent regions in the European decision-making process in the field of space policy.


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