Fall 2012

Online Exclusive

European Environment Agency Receives Prestigious Honor at Rio+20 Sustainable Development Conference

Eye on Rio

Esri joined the European Environment Agency (EEA) at the Rio+20 Conference, held June 20-22, 2012. Rio+20 was organized by the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), and marks the 20th anniversary of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) and the 10th anniversary of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. Rio+20 brought together heads of state and government and other representatives, members of the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, and others, to discuss how best to reduce poverty, advance social equality, and ensure environmental protection.

The Asa Branca favela community hopes to increase citizen participation through mapping to develop solutions that lead to new, more public infrastructure that benefit the people who live there.

The Asa Branca favela community hopes to increase citizen participation through mapping to develop solutions that lead to new, more public infrastructure that benefit the people who live there.

EEA is responsible for ensuring the quality of environmental information for 38 European Union (EU) states. EEA helps EU and its member countries make informed decisions about improving the environment, integrating environmental considerations into economic policies, and moving toward sustainability. It also coordinates the European Environment Information and Observation Network. Esri's ArcGIS plays a prominent role in helping EEA achieve its goal of delivering geographic visualization and analysis capabilities to environmental data consumers.

Another role of EEA is to connect the in situ monitoring data with space station observations and past reporting and help citizens understand the implications of this data. Thanks to EEA's efforts, many European countries are becoming interested in geospatial science and are consequently reaching out for the spatial tools provided by Esri and others in an effort to better communicate environmental issues to their citizens. This has led to an environmental legislation transformation within those countries.

Top Honors at Rio+20

EEA was given a top honor at Rio+20 when its Eye on Earth environmental application, based on ArcGIS Online and developed with the assistance of Microsoft, was chosen as a solution for the prestigious Sustainia100. Sustainia100 is a complete guide to innovative and scalable solutions, gathered from 56 countries spread over six continents, that are instrumental in creating sustainable societies. Building on ready and available solutions only, Sustainia100 is a tangible tool for sustainability professionals—from politicians to CEOs—dedicated to creating desirable and sustainable societies.

Individually, the solutions represent sustainable innovation in areas such as city planning, energy, fashion, water and waste management, technology, and transportation. Collectively, they provide a guide of the building blocks available for transforming our societies.

Sustainia100 is a cornerstone in Sustainia—a construction site for the desirable society we could live in if we implemented ready and available solutions. Developed by world-leading companies, organizations, and experts—in close collaboration with UN Global Compact and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the honorary chair of Sustainia's initiative Regions20—Sustainia is the first holistic introduction to the attractive, sustainable future. Sustainia100 solutions are nominees for the Sustainia Award, which honors outstanding performance within sustainability initiatives. The winner will be announced at a ceremony later this year in Copenhagen, Denmark.

"Eye on Earth's place in Sustainia100 shows real recognition for information sharing," says Jacqueline McGlade, executive director of EEA. "Knowledge can change our relationship with the environment, helping us become more sustainable and resilient to the challenges ahead. We hope the award will encourage even more citizens and organizations to get involved in Eye on Earth."

A community waste oil program where the waste oil is collected, processed/cleaned and then returned to the community as a fuel they can use again for cooking.

A community waste oil program where the waste oil is collected, processed/cleaned and then returned to the community as a fuel they can use again for cooking.

Watchkeepers of the Earth

Eye on Earth provides tools for creating maps, accessing thousands of readily available maps and datasets, and managing geospatial content. People can use the network to share content with the public and among groups or for private use. Governments, research organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and the public can use the network to work together to understand problems, develop policy, design plans, and take action. The cloud-configured network also provides the foundation for other regions to create similar environmental platforms.

McGlade underscores: "Our community has a great appetite for all kinds of applications, and we can move these in and out of the cloud as needed. Every time we add a new service that has a transaction element, we see the access numbers go up and up. We have to accommodate the fact that the more information we put out there, the more people want to look at it. We anticipate that people want to do their own start-ups and their own applications out of the reference data that we are creating."

Eye on Earth provides access to essential geographic environmental data supplied by approximately 450 organizations in the agency's 32 member countries and 6 cooperating countries. Esri's ArcGIS Online technology, coupled with Microsoft Windows Azure and Microsoft SQL Azure, allows EEA to host and maintain the platform, create database and business process management systems, and integrate security constraints. GIS web applications help user groups create and share map-based services, perform analysis, and publish geospatial products.

Creating the Sustainable Future That We Want

EEA was a participant in and showcased the Eye on Earth application at the Eye on Earth Summit organized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Abu Dhabi Environmental Agency (AGEDI) and held in Abu Dhabi this past December. EEA and Esri participate in several of the eight special initiatives launched at the Eye on Earth Summit.

The primary goal of the Community Sustainability and Resilience (CSR) Special Initiative is establishing an international community of practice linking urban practitioners and activities in the areas of sustainability and resilience. CSR Special Initiative stakeholders participated in side events at the US pavilion and within the main venue at Rio+20.

This network, connecting people with both people and information, is designed to facilitate the exchange/sharing of ideas, geospatial data, and geotechnology that can be applied to addressing these closely linked topics. Particular focus is on accomplishing the following specific objectives:

CSR seeks to create a forum for exchange between projects and capability building efforts focused on urban sustainability and resilience (including climate resilience) initiatives, including the My Community, Our Earth program; the GeoInformation for Sustainable Urban Management and Resilience initiative; and the World Bank Urbanization Knowledge Platform.

According to UN-HABITAT, "A sustainable city is one where achievements in social, economic, and physical development are made to last and where social, economic, and environmental factors are in balance." And Dr. Marsha Goldberg, Association of American Geographers (AAG), adds, "Urban sustainability increasingly requires resilience against both man-made and natural disasters, as well as the associated effects of climate change."

EEA organized two key events at Rio+20 exploring how sharing information and knowledge helps everyone in designing and creating a future that is sustainable and resilient for nature and human beings. The premiere of Planet RE:think, produced by EEA and its many partners, including UNEP, highlighted the need for us to consider more environmental methods for waste management that promote healthy livelihoods for the poor who are involved in the process of recycling in many parts of the world. Additionally, EEA hosted a side event on sharing environment information in action. EEA, UNEP, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, and Esri were among panelists discussing the needs for making environmental information more actionable.

Ultimately, the following statement, paragraph 274 in The Future We Want, the outcome document adopted at Rio+20, highlighted the need for quality geospatial information and accessible systems, such as the Eye on Earth network:

We recognize the importance of space-technology-based data, in situ monitoring and reliable geospatial information for sustainable development policymaking, programming and project operations. In this context, we note the relevance of global mapping and recognize the efforts in developing global environmental observing systems, including by the Eye on Earth Network and through the Global Earth Observation System of Systems. We recognize the need to support developing countries in their efforts to collect environmental data.

For more information, contact Carmelle J. Terborgh, Esri (

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