Submission from the Department for Environment,
Food and Rural Affairs
1. This paper represents the Department
for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) submission to
the Science and Technology Committee Inquiry on Space Policy.
The paper sets out Defra's approach to the use of space-based
technology and services including detail on past and current investments.
It includes plans for the future and offers views about the public
benefits derived from space, the coordination of UK space activities
and the value obtained from international programmes.
2.1 Defra is interested in space insofar
as space-based technology and services contribute to the objectives
and mission of the Department. Defra involvement in and use of
space occurs at two levels:
Providing HMG policy lead on specific
Investment as a user of space-related
technology, data and/or applications.
2.2 In addition to this, Defra is represented
in various fora as a Member of the British National Space Centre
(BNSC). These include:
Space Advisory Council.
Earth Observation Programme Board.
European Union Advisory Board.
2.3 Annex A provides a summary of the various
groups that Defra belongs to or leads that have direct or indirect
interests in space.
PROVIDING HMG POLICY
Global Monitoring for Environment and Security
3.1 Global Monitoring for Environment and
Security (GMES) is a joint "flagship" initiative of
the European Commission and the European Space Agency (ESA). GMES
aims to provide the information and services to improve the development,
implementation and monitoring of environment and civil security
policy in Europe.
3.2 In theory, the Commission has the lead
for GMES in terms of specifying the information and evidence that
is required to underpin current and future environment and civil
security policy. It is the responsibility of ESA to manage the
space-based observation component to meet these needs, building
on existing infrastructure and complementing in-situ data sources.
3.3 Defra is the UK policy lead on GMES,
reflecting the potential for GMES to play an important role in
developing future environment policy in Europe and the UK. However,
the potential impacts of GMES are not confined to Defra and, in
the future departments and organisations such as DfID, DTI, MoD,
NERC, Met Office may be faced with opportunities and threats.
3.4 In view of the wide remit of GMES and
relevance to a number of UK stakeholders, Defra has been working
with a number of Government departments through a GMES Whitehall
Group (chaired by Defra's Environment Strategy Director). This
group is underpinned by a working level team, with membership
from Defra, DTI, NERC, MoD and Met Office.
3.5 In December 2005, the UK subscribed
£7.23 million over three years to the first phase of the
ESA GMES Space Component Programme with contributions from Defra
(£2.5 million), NERC (£2.2 million), DTI (£1.53
million) and MoD (£1.5 million). This subscription level
amounted to approximately a 5% share of the ESA programme, compared
to a 30% share for Italy and 31% for Germany. The UK contribution
has been heavily criticised by industry as the geographic return
rules of ESA mean that UK companies are unable to secure major
contracts in this programme.
3.6 The Defra funding contribution is based
on a recognition that space-based observations are an important
element of GMES and that GMES has the potential to deliver to
our policy needs in the future and is based on a sound concept
of addressing common European user needs. However, at this stage
of the ESA programme, the main benefits of UK investment are industrial.
At present there is no UK funding model for this type of programme
and this is a major challenge that BNSC and its partners need
to address urgently. Defra employ a full time GMES Coordinator
to handle the work load associated with our policy lead position.
Group on Earth Observation (GEO)/Global Earth
Observation System of Systems (GEOSS)
3.7 The Group on Earth Observations (GEO)
was established by a series of three ministerial-level summits.
GEO includes 65 member countries, the European Commission, and
43 participating organizations working together to establish a
Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS). The GEO vision
for GEOSS is to realise a future wherein decisions and actions
for the benefit of humankind are informed via coordinated, comprehensive
and sustained Earth Observations and information.
3.8 GEOSS will build on and add value to
existing Earth Observation systems by coordinating their efforts,
addressing critical gaps, supporting their interoperability, sharing
information, reaching a common understanding of user requirements,
and improving delivery of information to users.
3.9 Defra currently provides HMG policy
lead on GEO by virtue of `owning' many of the policy areas. These
include nine so-called societal benefit areas, namely:
Reducing loss of life and property
from natural and human-induced disasters.
Understanding environmental factors
affecting human health and well-being.
Improving management of energy resources.
Understanding, assessing, predicting,
mitigating, and adapting to climate variability and change.
Improving water resource management
through better understanding of the water cycle.
Improving weather information, forecasting
Improving the management and protection
of terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems.
Supporting sustainable agriculture
and combating desertification.
Understanding, monitoring and conserving
3.10 The climate component of GEOSS is effectively
GCOS, the Global Climate Observing System. Defra GA Division funded
Prof. Paul Mason, former Chief Scientist of the Met Office, in
his role as GCOS chair, and continues to fund him now he is vice-chair.
Defra GA Division represents the UK on climate observing systems
at the international level, eg at the annual meetings of the UNFCCC
and its subsidiary body SBSTA, and on the Donor Board of the GCOS
Co-operation mechanism. Defra GA Division funds contributions
to a number of climate monitoring and observing systems eg AATSR
(see Table 5.1) and ARGO (a network of buoys that acquire various
in-situ marine measurements). GA also sit on GECC Observations
sub-committee and represent the Department's interests in all
fora where observations for climate are discussed.
3.11 The UK line on GEO suffers a similar
problem to that affecting GMES, namely the cross-cutting nature
of the project and the related interests in government, academia
and industry. Defra is currently considering development of a
UK GEO strategy but is first seeking the views of various stakeholders
on whether such a strategy is (a) necessary and (b) what should
such a strategy look like? It would require broad support to be
4.1 Meteorology: Defra is a major
government customer for a range of Met Office services. As such,
Defra is indirectly a major user of services with a large satellite
component. Defra contracts with the Met Office cover a wide range
of areas including weather forecasts, climate modelling, air quality
monitoring and flood warning systems.
4.2 Envisat Advanced Along-Track Scanning
Radiometer (AATSR): Defra agreed to take the lead in commissioning
AATSR when NERC, having funded its predecessors ATSR1 and ATSR2,
was unable to fund the 3rd instrument, vital for providing a sufficiently
long data record for the detection of an emerging global-warming
signal. AATSR contributes data of unprecedented accuracy to the
global sea surface temperature datasets compiled and analysed
by the UK Met Office.
4.3 Ozone and UV measurement: The
observations we fund, to fulfil our monitoring obligations under
the Montreal Protocol, are surface-based. Defra is a "customer"
for scientific developments and assessments which rely on observations
of all kinds, both surface- and space-based.
4.4 Jason-2: Jason-2 is an international
satellite mission to provide high quality radar altimetry data.
The Chief Scientific Advisor provides a small annual contribution
towards the UK share of the funding contribution via the Met Office.
The mission is due to launch in 2007.
4.5 RPA IACS checking: The Rural
Payments Agency uses satellite remote sensing for subsidy claim
checking in accordance with EC rules.
4.6 LCM 2000/2007: The Countryside
Survey provides a UK Land Cover map as one of its outputs. This
map is generated using satellite imagery for the reference year
in question. The product has over 1000 users and is an important
dataset within many research, policy and commercial applications.
Satellite navigation and positioning
4.7 Various Departments within Defra are
users of satellite navigation related technology. Major uses include
animal tagging and tracking (livestock and wildlife) and surveying.
5.1 Table 5.1 shows the investments made
by Defra into EO technology and applications.
DEFRA INVESTMENTS IN EO TECHNOLOGY AND APPLICATIONS
(incl data purchase)
|Application (whole project,|
% of EO unknown)
||AATSR data validation and plans||£228k
|AATSR flight ops
|AATSR management info system
||Measurement of ozone over UK||£316k
||Baseline measurements and analysis of ozone and UV
||Jason 2||£60k pa
|Agri and land management||RPA
||Satellite imagery for IACS
||Methods for soil mapping||£200k
|Environment protection||European wildlife
||£260k (from total of £769k)|
Earth Observation Strategy
6.1 Defra SESDG is leading development of a Departmental
strategy on the use of Earth Observation. The stated vision of
the EO strategy is:
Defra will be an intelligent customer for policy-driven
applications of Earth Observation data and services and will be
an active partner in developing national and international programmes
that meet our needs.
6.2 Further work is now underway to determine Defra requirements
from EO over the next decade and devise the best means to deliver
those requirements. Defra has employed a full time Earth Observation
Co-ordinator to undertake this work and act as a focal point for
EO activities within the Department.
Earth Observation Forum
6.3 The growing interest in EO across government has
led to the formation of a small but growing interest group composed
of various government departments. The Forum is discussing where
common interest in EO lies and what activities should be undertaken
to make the availability and use of EO data more efficient for
6.4 The Defra Earth Observation Coordinator is helping
manage the Forum and lead discussions on issues such as potential
for a UK Earth Observation Data Acquisition strategy.
7.1 The use of space clearly has significant public benefit
where related to specific applications. Where the market can supply
these benefits through particular products or services, Defra
invests where most beneficial to do so.
7.2 The greater difficulty lies in delivering public
benefits that cannot be captured through normal market processes
(ie where there is a market failure). Long-term monitoring of
climate variables is a good example where there are continuing
problems in identifying the right model for public financing of
the UK share of these activities. This issue has been raised for
some time now. Activities such as GMES and GEOSS and bringing
the issues to fore again and Defra is working with other stakeholders
to see what, if any, solutions exist.
7.3 Maybe the answer is a climate equivalent to the National
Interest in Mapping Services Agreement (NIMSA) whereby HMG pays
the Ordnance Survey a sum to undertake various mapping activities
that do not get funded by normal commercial means. This ensures
critical public good benefits are ensured, such as good quality
mapping in times of severe emergency.
8.1 UK space policy is rightly to pursue user-driven
applications of space. When these applications require a direct
UK investment in space hardware or infrastructure, then coordination
and management of that investment is usually undertaken by the
British National Space Centre (BNSC), particularly where it involves
dealing with ESA.
8.2 Defra is a partner within BNSC but since Defra does
not invest heavily in space infrastructure (preferring to purchase
products and services that meet specific policy needs) our role
within BNSC is more in terms of policy advisory function rather
than as funding body. This distinction between policy lead function
and space infrastructure funding function has lead to difficulties
with the UK position within programmes such as GMES and GEO and
highlights one of the difficulties for a partnership organisation
8.3 The situation is often made more difficult given
strong industry interests in these programmes and the central
role played by DTI as host to BNSC. UK industry rightly expects
to play a role in delivering space infrastructure but can only
do this if the UK invests through the usual mechanisms (normally
ESA). So while industry may look to the likes of Defra for policy
lead and user requirement, the early stages of infrastructure
investment have to come from elsewhere.
8.4 Defra accepts that there are many aspects of space
that command industry interest and subsequent benefit to the UK.
However, we would like to see a more transparent mechanism for
aligning industry and user interests in the early stages of project
development, especially where the "user" investment
(from the likes of Defra and other government departments) is
relatively small compared to say, investment coming from DTI.
8.5 There needs to be a more transparent process by which
conflicts of interest can be resolved. Defra would also like to
see more user representation in key BNSC advisory boards such
as the Earth Observation Programme Board.
6.1 Defra experience is derived mainly from participation
in projects such as AATSR and GMES. While Defra accepts the necessity
for organisations such as ESA to play a role in coordinating European
space R&D funding, the ESA approach often gives rise to costs
and decisions that do not sit well with a user-oriented approach
to space (usually driven by the need to find the most cost-effective
and efficient solution rather than the best technical solution).
This leads to difficulty in justifying user investment in systems
that are perceived as driven by criteria other than the value
for money criteria.
6.2 A good example is the GMES Space Component Programme
funding experience. For a Department used to an environment where
the drive is to reduce financial exposure, it was enlightening
to see how European counterparts competed to increase their commitment
to the GMES programme. This was driven largely by commitment to
their respective national space industry and demonstrated the
difficulties of a user-driven approach in an environment that
is not driven by the common constraints and objectives.