The European Parliament has approved the Copernicus satellite-based Earth observation programme aiming to advance understanding of the environment and climate change processes.
Copernicus, a successor of the earlier Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) programme, will receive €4,291m (£3,587m) between 2014-2020 to launch new satellites and develop new applications for environment monitoring and enhancing public security.
"New satellites will be launched in the coming years to collect global data," said Vittorio Prodi, who steered the legislation through the parliament.
"The environmental monitoring of air, water and soil will help improve health, for instance. Other applications can aid significantly agriculture activities. Copernicus will also support public authorities in disaster management when there are natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, fires and floods, as well as man-made accidents like oil spills," he explained.
The access to Copernicus data about specific areas of land, seas and oceans and the Earth’s atmosphere will be free of charge and open to everyone.
Copernicus data on water quality, for example, will help public authorities to enhance protection of bathing waters, or predict algal blooms. Precise understanding of ocean currents, winds and ice will help improve safety of marine operations. Detailed information about temperatures around the globe, the rise of sea levels, ice sheet melting, solar radiation and processes in the ozone layer will help refine climate change predictions.
Apart from several Earth observation satellites, the system will also work with information gathered through sensors on the ground.
Copernicus is considered the European contribution to building the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).
The regulation will enter into force as soon as it has been published in the Official Journal of the EU, following a formal approval by the Council of Europe.