Group on Earth Observations Ministerial Summit

The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) received unanimous endorsement of its mandate for a second decade at the GEO Plenary and the Ministerial Summit, which took place from 12–17 January in Geneva.

By increasing the utility of open data about the Earth system, GEO is helping to mitigate disasters, develop water-management strategies, support citizen observatories, and strengthen food security. GEO accomplishes this through the Global Earth Observation System of Systems, known as GEOSS,  a portal through which data and other information can be easily accessed at little or no cost. GEO coordinates GEOSS, to which the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO, WMO and other UN organizations contribute.

GEO’s mandate is to drive the interoperability of the many thousands of space-based, airborne and in situ Earth observations around the globe. Without concerted efforts to coordinate across diverse observations, these separate systems often yield just snapshot assessments, leading to gaps in scientific understanding and hampering data fusion in support of better decision-making for society. GEO aims to fill such gaps by providing a comprehensive, more integrated picture of our changing Earth.

GEO is facilitating the development of new tools, such as a cholera early warning system, and painting fuller pictures of complex environmental processes through, for example, observations of ocean acidification at the global scale and observations of atmospheric greenhouse gases from space. GEO participants are studying the footprint of mining practices, focusing on links between air quality and health with the aim of minimizing future impacts on nearby communities and natural habitats. They are also looking into the far-reaching consequences of melting glaciers and other serious cold-region concerns.

Group photo of GEO-X participants.- Photo courtesy of IISD

In Africa, 22 nations and 5 GEO participating organizations recently launched AfriGEOSS with the goal of strengthening that continent’s capabilities to produce, manage and use earth observations. “This new initiative gives us the necessary framework to support informed decisions about a range of priorities, including food security, access to clean water and sanitation, natural resources, and coastal and disaster management,” said Derek Hannekom, Minister of Science and Technology, South Africa.

GEO is comprised of 90 member nations, the European Commission and 77 participating organizations. The GEO co-chairs are China, the European Commission, the Republic of South Africa and the United States. WMO is a member of GEO and hosts the GEO Secretariat.

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