This proposal will be the first substantive international project to address
these research questions systematically. It is timely because until very recently
satellites operated at such low spatial resolution that their main value was
in observing large land-use changes at discrete time intervals. In the 1990s
the spatial resolution of satellites was between 30-80m, but since 2000 there
has been a major step change in resolution capabilities. The resolution on
some satellites is now 0.6m and spatial resolution could soon be as low as
a few tens of centimetres. The number of operational satellites has increased
dramatically, providing more timely and accurate data, and data cost has generally
decreased. Current satellites can rapidly collect and analyse data of any
location on the Earth.
Our research focus is on the specialised subject area of environmental regulation.
There are recognised weaknesses in the current mechanisms of implementation
and enforcement of EU and international environmental laws and treaties. Many
countries have environmental legislation that is sophisticatedly drafted but
the weak point in the regulatory chain is often the application of laws on
At the same time, it is increasingly recognized that conventional environmental
regulation based on licencing and bureaucratic physical inspection regimes
are resource intensive and may be ill suited to contemporary challenges. New
legislative requirements are physically extensive in area (e.g. habitat protection),
applicable to greater numbers of businesses/people (e.g. millions of farms
in the EU now fall under the remit of waste legislation), and employ new regulatory
techniques (e.g. emissions trading). Ensuring compliance of international
environmental laws is equally a matter of increasing concern (Sands, 2004(a)).
Many international laws lack compulsory inspection regimes or sufficient resources
to ensure compliance.
Meteosat image of the planet
Aims and Objectives
UCL aims to be the first UK research group to consider the potential of the
new resolution capabilities of satellites for providing a rigorous, legally-reliable,
and cost effective tool in inspection and compliance regimes under contemporary
Our research will be conducted in six workpackages.
Workpackage 1 examines current uses of satellite data for
environmental monitoring and lessons this provides for the future. We will
consider where satellites are being used for enforcement and monitoring purposes
internationally (Europe, North America, Asia, Australasia), and collect data
describing each use, its effectiveness, costs involved, and whether it is
prescribed in legislation.
Workpackage 2 evaluates key EU environmental laws in order
to identify those elements where the current and future technical capabilities
of satellites could provide compliance data. We will focus on EU Directives
in the key sectors of air (including emissions trading), water, waste, and
nature and biodiversity
Workpackage 3 will mirror Workpackage 2 by examining key
international treaties protecting the atmosphere, marine ecosystems (including
oil pollution), transboundary waste regimes, and biodiversity.
Workpackage 4 examines in detail the current use of satellite
monitoring in one case study, the monitoring of agricultural fraud in the
UK under CAP support schemes, the only area to date where satellites have
been used systematically in this country, and where specific EU legislation
prescribes its use. We will assess its effectiveness, and include research
on how this has affected compliance behaviour.
Workpackage 5 considers the likely constraints to the enhanced
use of satellite imagery as a compliance tool. This encompasses legislative
design, lack of knowledge by regulators, data potential including costs and
reliability, and issues of public and legal acceptability, especially privacy.
Workpackage 6 is dedicated to dissemination.