Story | 12 Mar, 2020

Observing the Earth to enforce environmental law

CEESP News: by the IUCN Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia (IUCN ECARO)

Applying an innovative approach, enviroLENS aims to combine and integrate Earth Observation with law enforcement for the benefit of effective environmental management. The resulting portal will serve to support and inform societies, legal professionals and environmental monitoring sectors, providing the needed proof and listing relevant legal texts for the selected areas.

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Photo: © enviroLENS

The eLENS Portal, an advanced information system that will unite Earth Observation with the environmental law and legal domain. 

Monitoring the environment to support its protection is the main “raison d’etre” of the European Commission Copernicus satellite programme. At present, however, satellite-derived information is not used on a regular basis as primary evidence for environmental law enforcement. Satellite-derived information has almost exclusively been technology-led and is relatively new to the legal sector. Consequently, there is limited awareness among the legal sector about the potential application of satellite-derived information, their access and affordability for evidence gathering.

In a response to this, the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme is funding the project enviroLENS, which strives to bridge the gap between the utilization of European satellite capacities provided by the Copernicus and environmental law enforcement, as well as related cross-cutting sectors. The project combines components from the corporate and legal sectors with Earth Observation (EO)-based services to provide evidences on environmental incidences towards the goal of supporting the data gathering process and to foster data-driven decision making in the environmental domain, as well as monitoring and evidence support.

The combined efforts will result in the eLENS Portal, an advanced information system that will unite EO with the environmental law and legal domain, creating innovative services for: 

  • Legal professionals, seeking, (1) legal support for their particular environmental law enforcement issues (support capacities of EO data, showcases, validation, etc.); (2) to generate legal evidence; or (3) to exploit the semantic legislation transformer to discover legal texts relevant to defined areas; 
  • environmental monitoring tasks, allowing for historic investigations based on comparison with images from the past 20 or so years depending on location and level of detail required, and an alarm-based monitoring service that would trigger should selected variables change by specified thresholds over one or more periods of time; and
  • society, to access freely available services and public information based on specific area searches and simple comparison with past images to get an impression of any developments.

The eLENS Portal should be easy and intuitive to use for both expert and non-expert communities, helping increase and the use of Earth Observation services and promoting their potential to increase justice and equitability through better environmental law enforcement.

It would be presumptuous to assume that enviroLENS alone will change the way that environmental governance is done; however, it aims to support and contribute to on-going changes of environmental governance, the overarching goal being: effective environmental protection.

We are happy to receive your thoughts and feedback on the project and the proposed services - feel free to get in touch!

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