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Volume 691: debated on Tuesday 17 April 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much they will contribute over the next three years to the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security programme which monitors the concentration of air pollutants; and what assessment they have made of how this contribution compares to contributions which other European countries have pledged to make. [HL3071]

Defra is the lead department for the Government on the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) initiative of the European Commission and the European Space Agency (ESA). Other key government funding partners at this stage include the Department of Trade and Industry, the Natural Environment Research Council and Ministry of Defence.

The Government are contributing to the GMES programme through two major routes. First, the UK is contributing €11.04 million to phase 1, segment 1 of the ESA GMES Space Component Programme. This makes the UK the fifth largest contributor to this part of GMES. Secondly, as a major contributor to the European Union, the UK is indirectly funding 18 per cent of the €1.2 billion that is dedicated to GMES from within the EU FP7 Space Programme, which amounts to €216 million.

As yet, there is no firm decision on the level of UK subscription to the second phase of the ESA GMES Space Component Programme. Defra will continue to engage with the Commission, ESA, other government departments and UK stakeholders to ensure, as far as possible, that GMES meets UK needs and provides good value for money.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their assessment of the importance of the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security programme as a component of their policies to monitor and forecast the level of air pollution. [HL3072]

The Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) programme shows potential for contributing to air quality monitoring and forecasting policies at various levels. The aspiration to make data (from ground and satellite networks) more readily available, efficiently acquired and fit for purpose is welcome.

Current air quality monitoring at member state level is determined by a European directive that stipulates the use of certain technologies and standards which must be adhered to. This is usually delivered through ground-based sensor networks. Satellite data are not used as they cannot meet the required data quality criteria, but they could still be useful for giving greater insight into air quality issues, for instance, through quantifying diffuse or remote sources such as international shipping or ammonia emissions from agricultural land.

Air quality forecasts are based on operational models used by the UK Met Office. In future, we expect to see greater use of assimilated satellite data to help enhance these models, particularly in terms of trans-boundary transport of pollutants. Currently, the use of satellite data is mainly restricted to research activities. The ESA Promote project demonstrates the potential for a host of air quality and atmospheric composition services to be delivered. Whether they can fully transition to operational status will depend on many factors, including the accuracy and reliability of data acquisition.