Setting the Scene
In the beginning there was no data, let alone results…but there were ideas. Ideas that care must be taken of the environment in which we live as humans have been around for millennia. They have surfaced in to our modern international political arena in the 1970’s with the first UN conference on Human Environment, the first EU Environment Action Programme and the seminal publication “The limits to Growth” by the Club of Rome.
Caring for our environment comes with studying it. We monitor air, water and soil quality to prevent health risks. We map natural hazardous areas, land use, buildings and demography: all useful data in case of preventing or fighting emergency situations. And not only research institutes monitor the environment. The domain counts numerous curious, involved citizens, doing their own environmental measurements and analyses. Where official measurements don’t match individual measurements, there is explaining to do. On the other hand, citizen scientist can also help to improve official measurements and thus enrich our data infrastructure.
With the entry into force in May 2007 of the INSPIRE Directive the EU embarked on an ambitious initiative for the obstacle free sharing of geospatial data and information across all levels of government and borders (and its re-use of public sector information).
INSPIRE quickly proved itself to be a de facto pioneer and innovator of a European Interoperability Framework and the EU's Digital Single Market's priority initiative for building a European data economy benefitting to the economy and society.
INSPIRE will continue to play a pivotal role in the digital transformation and transition of our societies and governments as geospatial data have been recognised to play a fundamental role in delivering better public services. This is reflected in the strong political commitment expressed in the Tallinn Ministerial declaration on eGoverment (October 2017) where Member States and EFTA countries pledged to adhere to the vision outlined in the European eGovernment Action Plan 2016-2020.
The benefits of implementing the INSPIRE Directive are therefore not limited to environmental policies, yet this initial goal of the Directive is more than ever central to the EU's ambitions in this area. Indeed, on the 26th of October the European Commission presented its 2018 Work programme including 26 new initiatives and outlook into the future. Delivering on the Circular Economy Action Plan remains a strong priority to which i.a the follow-up to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, including on the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and an initiative to strengthen the enforcement of the Rule of Law in the European Union has now been added.
Effective application and enforcement of EU law by Member States also continues to be a 2018 priority where considerable challenges still need to be tackled to fully reap the economic, environmental and societal benefits of the EU's environmental policies through closing the environmental 'implementing gap' estimated in 2011 to cost the EU economy no less than €50 billion a year.
INSPIRE can play a key role in helping to close this 'implementation gap' through better information. Yet in order to do so, it needs to tackle its own gaps in implementation. This can only be done through an effective cooperation between all actors involved from local to EU level and beyond in implementing this digital infrastructure. This concerns also building on - and integrating INSPIRE in EU programmes such as those of the Digital Single Marker initiative, the EU space strategy programmes Copernicus and Galileo/EGNOS . These joint efforts are needed to further empower developer and user communities who are building and benefitting from the myriad of digital applications in many policy and societal areas that INSPIRE and those EU initiatives support.