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Outcomes of the Towards eEnvironment Conference – sharing information on the environment is a challenging issue for the EU member states as well as cities
The European conference Towards eEnvironment took place on 25th to 27th March 2009 in Prague within the Czech Republic presidency to the Council of the EU. The City of Prague, a member of EUROCITIES, participated as a conference partner. The main topic of the conference was an effective use of information technologies for environmental issues, especially knowledge integration and information sharing. It was confirmed that this issue is a challenge not only for the EU member states but also for cities (and regions). Information systems must be a helpful tool for decision makers in public administration, experts, as well as citizens. Prague has shown that belongs to the top European players in this respect and one of its papers was awarded in the international competition.
A number of environmental information systems are currently operated in Europe. However, the goal of the EU Commission is to establish a Shared Environmental Information System (SEIS), which would serve as a uniform entry portal for information on the state and development of the environment and on activities aimed at its protection (Single Information Space in Europe for the Environment – SISE). In order to promote this plan, the Czech Presidency of the EU Council called an international conference entitled Towards eEnvironment, which was held in Prague at the end of March 2009.
Over 350 delegates from 31 countries and EU institutions who represented public administration at all levels, research, environment agencies, non-government organisations, and private sector met at the conference. The wide range of participants is illustrated by organisations which prepared the conference - Masaryk University in Brno in cooperation with the Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic, the European Commission, the European Environment Agency, and the European Space Agency. CENIA – the Czech Environmental Information Agency, the Czech Space Office, the Institute of Information Theory and Automation of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute, and the City of Prague also took part in the conference organization.
The Shared Environmental Information System will provide the general public, public administration, companies, and also the media with easy access to credible and comparable information on the state of the environment in the countries of the European Union. SEIS will use geographic information systems, which will allow for viewing maps on the state of the environment. Furthermore, it will include, for example, information on the quality and quantity of water, waste management and quality of the air, land monitoring, information on protected areas, emission limit values, the applicable legislation, and further useful and guaranteed information. It will also utilise the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) and the Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe (INSPIRE) principles.
Prague also contributed to the conference programme and discussion and proved its significant position in the European context. ”Prague has been systematically engaged in the processing and providing of information on the City environment for more than 20 years, through yearly published reports, Internet applications, and geographical information systems“, expressed Petr Štěpánek, the City of Prague Councillor responsible for the environment, in lecture introducing the Prague Environmental Information System.
Another lecture on Urban Atlas helps urban planners received the first prize in the GMES section, one of the four specialised conference sections.
A specific role of cities and regions was mentioned by Prague participants during the conference discussions. Local governments are involved in daily operational tasks in the area where people live. They have direct contact with citizens and can help in understanding and solving local problems. On the other hand, Prague is aware of the importance of close co-operation with the national and European governments and with research institutes. ”We appreciate ongoing co-operation with the specialized government institutes as well as with European cities, which are facing similar problems. Cooperation, experience, and good practice sharing are the key tools for improvement“, also expressed Petr Štěpánek and pointed out assets from the City of Prague networking within the EUROCITIES and participation in international projects
”The conference has drawn attention also to extending usage of information technologies for solving environmental issues from global and strategic dimension to everyday tasks and risk management improving. The conference was also a good opportunity to make new contacts between experts“, underlined in his closing speech Professor Jiří Hřebíček, Chairman of the Conference.
In the final conference declaration, which resumes priorities and gives recommendations to the European Commission, participants agreed that further attention should be focused on improving knowledge and data sharing, interoperability and data flows between various systems for monitoring, easier access to the environmental information, ways of policy development, and automatic reporting using indicators.
For more information please visit: www.e-envi2009.org