European satellite initiative is said to have huge benefits for climate change monitoring but the government is not convinced

The government is being urged to consider investing in a major European satellite initiative to address climate change that could provide groundbreaking benefits for the insurance industry.

The Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) is a European initiative that could collect data from earth observation satellites and ground-based information to be used to monitor evolution of the environment.

According to experts gathered during a recent roundtable discussion hosted by LogicaCMG, the UK has not been as supportive of GMES as some of its European counterparts despite claims the technology could have a profound impact on climate change and the financial sector.

David Crichton, a professor at the Benfield Hazard Research Centre, said GMES and satellite technology could play key roles in predicting severe weather patterns and structure damage to bridges and dams.

He said: “In the UK there are 5,000 dams and reservoirs that are on average 110 years old but only have a life span of 20 years. If those reservoirs were equipped with transponder satellites you could anticipate a collapse weeks in advance.”

Alan O’Neil, a professor at University of Reading said: “The UK is small geographically but the insurance risks are worldwide. We’re involved with underwriting risks across the world and satellites could help monitor those risks.”

Stuart Martin, director of space and satellite communications with LogicaCMG said there is a hunger by insurers for predictability and questioned why the government is hesitant to invest in a system that could do just that?

But it’s clear the government is not yet clear on the merits of investing in GMES.

MP Michael Jack, who sits on the environment select committee, said there has always been a reluctance in the UK to spend money on space research.

He said: “There is that assumption that the U.S. will do it so we don’t have to bother.”

Jack said GMES could be beneficial in collecting data from various sectors and keeping it one central location, making it easier to mobilize citizens when it comes to climate change.

A member of DEFRA who attended the discussion said there is a need for more research to convince government of the merits of GMES and that is worth the investment. The majority of funding for the technology has come from the EU and the European Space Agency.