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Brussels, 05 February 2008

Commission proposes to improve and streamline the European system for collecting, analysing and reporting environmental information.

Timely, reliable and relevant information on the state of environment is essential for sound policies. This includes information on how the climate is changing, whether European waters are improving and how nature is reacting to pollution and changing land use. Such information should be made available to all and be easily understood. To this end the Commission proposes to improve, modernise and streamline the present information systems by establishing a European Shared Environment Information System. The objective of this system is to tie better together all existing data gathering and information flows using modern tools such as the internet and satellite technology. The objective is also to move away from paper based reporting and reports to a system where data is made available to the users at source in an open and transparent way.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "Timely, relevant and reliable information on the environment is absolutely necessary for decision makers to respond to the environmental problems of our time. But this is not enough. Our citizens are also entitled to know about the quality of the air and water where they live or if floods, droughts and pollution are risking their property and livelihood. We must thus improve the way we collect, analyse and communicate information on our environment."

The need for sharing environmental information

More than 70 of the several hundred pieces of environmental legislation in force in the European Union require Member States to report on specific aspects of the environment within their territory. A large amount of environmental data is thus collected by various levels of public authorities throughout the EU.

This information is used to analyse trends and pressures on the environment and is vital when drawing up policy and assessing whether policy is effective or being properly implemented. At present, this wealth of information is neither made available in a timely manner nor in a format that policy makers and the public can readily understand and use. This is due to a range of obstacles of a legal, financial, technical or procedural nature.

With the Shared Environmental Information System (SEIS) environmentally-relevant data and information would be stored in environmental databases throughout the European Union and would be interconnected virtually and be compatible. The proposed SEIS is a decentralised but integrated web-enabled information system based on a network of public information providers sharing environmental data and information.

Reaping the benefits of technology

Information and communication technology will enable real-time data to be made available to decision-makers and allow them to make immediate and life-saving decisions. Recent experiences of forest fires, floods and droughts show how much timely environmental information can make a difference during an emergency.

Tackling today's environmental challenges such as water scarcity, preserving ecosystems and biodiversity, and adapting to climate change depend on the assessment of data from a variety of sectors and sources. For example, the health effects of air pollution can be evaluated if statistics on air quality, population concentrations and health statistics are overlapped for a specific region or geographical area and analysed collectively. Action can follow based on the results.

Better environmental information for better policies

SEIS will offer EU Member States an efficient electronic system to fulfil their reporting obligations on EU environmental policies and legislation. The new system will be especially helpful in avoiding the duplication of reporting efforts, the streamlining of data flows, and reducing monitoring and reporting costs.

In return SEIS will provide Member States and EU institutions with more coherent environmental information to facilitate the drafting, implementation, and effectiveness of environmental policies.

European citizens will also be empowered by SEIS. It will provide them with useful environmental information in their language and thus enable them to make informed decisions on their environment and influence public policy.

From vision to reality

A detailed implementation plan for SEIS will be presented some time in 2008. It will be built on efforts already being undertaken in Europe to create integrated information systems. These include the Water Information System for Europe (WISE) and the European environment information and observation network (EIONET), the 2007 INSPIRE Directive on access and interoperability of spatial data, and the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) initiative on Earth monitoring data from satellites. However, there is no integrated platform to connect all these initiatives into a shared and common system. SEIS aims to fill in this gap.

EU financial support to complement the national and regional budgets to implement SEIS will come from the Research Framework Programmes, LIFE, the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP) and the Structural Funds.

Towards a Shared Environmental Information System (SEIS)

SEIS - Impact assessment

SEIS - Executive summary of the impact assessment

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