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Geographic information in support of Environmental Policy

The Sixth Environmental Action programme identifies better information as one of the keys to improve Environmental policy in the next decade. Geographic information plays a special role here, because of its potential to present information in a lively and understandable way to citizens and stakeholders. The Commission is currently preparing two new initiatives to stimulate the availability of environmental information: INSPIRE (INfrastructure for SPatial InfoRmation in Europe) and GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security). Implementation of these initiatives will represent an important support to some of the key approaches avocated in the sixth Environmental Action Programme:

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  • Ensure the implementation of existing environmental legislation;
  • Integrate environmental concerns into all relevant policy areas;
  • Ensure better and more accessible information on the environment for citizens;
  • Develop a more environmentally conscious attitude towards land use.

Both initiatives are broader than environment only, but for both, support to environmental policy is one of the key objectives.


The INSPIRE initiative will make available relevant, harmonised and quality geographic information for the purpose of formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of Community environmental policy-making and for the citizen. Furthermore, by establishing from the onset cross-sectoral co-ordination mechanisms, INSPIRE will provide access to compatible information across sectors such as environment, transport and agriculture. It will also help the integration of environmental considerations in other sectors and supporting the new approach to more coherent policy-making advocated by the EU sustainable development strategy.

On 23 July 2004, the Commission has adopted a Proposal for a Directive on INSPIRE. es da de el en fr it nl pt fi sv. According to this Proposal, Member States would make accessible their existing public sector geographical information over the INTERNET. They would also ensure that the information is shared between public bodies and they would take steps to make geographical information more coherent. An EU Geo-portal would in addition provide citizens with a unique access point to this information. This proposal was accompanied by an extended impact assessment en (pdf~1,2M), which showed that INSPIRE will allow to save money, will help to improve the environment and will support sustainable development.



In its communication to the Gothenburg Council in June 2001 the Commission has set the ambitious goal to achieve by 2008 a European capacity for GMES. GMES is a joint initiative of the Commission and the European Space Agency (ESA). It aims to strengthen the Communities capabilities to acquire and integrate high-quality data derived from spaceborne, terrestrial and marine observations with geographical and socio-economic information supporting knowledge-based policy making from local to global level. In an initial period 2001-2003 policy needs and existing structures will be assessed to draft a design of the future set-up. It provides also a broad platform of stakeholder consultation including users and information service providers that will allow the identification of obstacles and solutions in relation to the access and use of environmental and geographical information.

The GMES initiative is/will be supported by several calls for proposals in the context of the Fifth and Sixth Research Framework Programme. GMES will as such also contribute to the aims of the INSPIRE initiative.