The European Investment Bank (EIB) fully supports the EU space program, which can play a key role in boosting the bloc’s efforts to battle climate change and curbing CO2 emissions, EIB Vice President Ambroise Fayolle told a press event during the online 13th European Space Conference on January 13.
Responding to a question on the link between EIB plans to invest in the EU space sector and EU climate policies, Fayolle reminded that the EIB has transformed itself into a climate bank and has set very ambitious targets at the end of last year, significantly increasing the volume of climate change projects. “The fact that as of 2021 we have a number of projects that have to Paris-aligned and all this make the EIB extremely sensitive to the issue of climate change. When you see also the debate that took place at the European Council, for example, the link to how do we transform the green and digital economy as fast and as fair as possible is extremely important. It comes back to the satellites in the way they are key components for critical communication and information-based infrastructure for green society. In particular they are key for all the data that have to be generated,” the EIB Vice President said.
Fayolle said the EU space program really drives digitalization, which is one of the very important targets of the EU for today, it contributes to fighting climate change with data about the earth, including oceans, makes Europeans more competitive and increases Europe’s strategic autonomy. “So, for all these reasons it is not only a competitive system but a key element of the climate change strategy of the Bank of the European Union,” Fayolle said.
Space action at the heart of EU strategic autonomy
Meanwhile, European Council President Charles Michel highlighted in his speech the role of EU space policy in the bloc’s climate and digital strategy. “Just as Copernicus – ‘Europe’s eyes on Earth’ – sets global standards in space, the EU is setting global standards in climate action. We committed to becoming the first carbon neutral continent by 2050. And just last month, we agreed to a decisive step by promising to reduce our carbon emissions by 55% by 2030. And with our Green Deal, we operationalize these targets and harness the vast economic potential of green innovations. We want to become the green world leader,” Michel said. “We want to lead on climate and digital. And we want more strategic autonomy in an open and global environment,” he said.
European space action can play a key role in helping the EU to achieve these goals. “First, our space policy – along with a strong and dynamic space sector – is essential to implementing our climate and digital strategies. Copernicus is already a spectacular tool for monitoring and watching over our planet – offering the most accurate data of Planet Earth 24/7. And in the digital domain, space communications are creating major new opportunities. Low earth orbit satellite projects, in particular, should allow us to develop broadband connectivity throughout Europe, a key to the success of our digital transition,” the European Council President said.
“Second, in our new budgetary space programme we will spend 14.9 billion euro – a significant increase from our previous budget. This will help step up support for a space industrial base that’s already highly competitive on private markets, with great potential for growth. From data to the Internet of Things, broadband, Earth observation and, of course, launch systems,” Michel said, adding that the EU is determined to do everything it can to support and facilitate access to financing in these fields, particularly for start-ups and SMEs. “This is true for the space sector, and for the digital sector, which will boost the space economy,” he said.
Finally, space has a direct impact on the EU’s geopolitical goal of strategic autonomy, Michel said, adding that that Europe is already a major player in space. “If we want to be stronger and more self-confident on the global landscape, we must also be stronger in space. We must ensure safe, autonomous, reliable and affordable access to space. Of course, we are not alone. As competition in space increases, we need to use our weight as a global player to help build robust global governance. This will be essential to innovative and sustainable space activity. And how we manage space traffic and space debris will also be a challenge,” he said.
Space also offers commercial challenges. “Fair access to world markets will also be a global challenge. Europe must play a positive role in this area as well,” Michel said, noting that a robust European space sector is essential to a robust Europe. “Developing our space sector will help us reinforce our strategic autonomy – goal number one of our generation, in my view. This encompasses all our operational objectives. Your field – space – is set to grow at a phenomenal rate. And this will have an equally phenomenal impact on our strategic objective of greater autonomy. In the same way, Europe’s strength and assertiveness on the global stage will help us create a favourable context for your energies, talents and innovations in the space sector,” he said.
Galileo & Copernicus – Consolidation
For his part, Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton told the 13th European Space Conference that Galileo and Copernicus are established infrastructures, the best in the world and recognised as such, and also instrumental to the green and digital transition.
“However, it is not the time to be complacent and congratulate ourselves on our achievements. We need to think ahead, for the next 10 to 20 years. Galileo and Copernicus must evolve. Otherwise, they will fast become obsolete,” he warned. “This is why I decided to frontload the launch of the second generation of Galileo satellites, with a first launch in 2024. There was no time to lose on past technologies as we needed to project Europe into the next technological races. Yes, it might entail more risks, but this is the new reality of space business. In Europe, we must learn to take more risks, to anticipate them, to mitigate them. I am glad that the industry understood this message, took up the challenge and put forward high quality proposals. Following the technical evaluation, the decision has been taken. It will be announced by the end of the month,” he said.
Breton noted that with this new generation, Galileo will operate real technological breakthroughs with high innovative satellites and technologies such as digitally configurable antennas, inter- satellites links, new atomic clocks technologies or full electric propulsion systems. The Second Generation of Galileo will have significantly improved services capabilities, notably in the field of secured navigation and resilience against emerging threats, the Commissioner said. “When it comes to Copernicus, we are today designing new missions,” he said, adding that the European Space Agency (ESA) has awarded 6 new precursor missions, all of which have huge potential, such as the CO2 monitoring mission or the polar observation mission.
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