European Green Deal: Can Open Data Maturity Assist the Effort?
June 22, 2023 by Capgemini
A European Green Deal is one of the six strategic priorities targeted by the European Commission for the years 2019-2024. It aims to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by becoming a modern, resource-efficient economy. The EC believes that access to data (both open and private) is crucial to this ambition, but just how mature are EU Member States’ open data policies in terms of contributing to the European Green Deal?
First, let’s recap on what we mean by open data. Open data is data that anyone can access, use, and share, free of charge. The annual Open Data Maturity (ODM) report, coordinated by Capgemini on behalf of the EC and the EU Publications Office, gathers insights into the state of open data in European countries, including the 27 EU Member States. It then extrapolates open data best practices that are already being implemented and offers recommendations for the adoption of open data policies Europe-wide.
The latest report was published at a time when EU Member States were (and still are) working towards making high-value datasets publicly available by a mandated EC deadline of June 2024. High-value datasets are those deemed to have a high potential impact in areas such as the economy, society, and the environment. Of the six categories classified as high value, several pertain to the environment, notably earth observation & environment, and meteorological datasets.
Another identified high-value dataset category with environmental implications is mobility, as it can encourage a lower consumption of energy based on vehicle fuel and the switch to renewables. Here, the ODM report cites the mFUND-Project ChargePlanner in Germany that aims to develop a prototype for calculating charging recommendations for electric cars along a route and for forecasting the capacity utilization of public charging stations. For this purpose, suitable data sources are first identified and then processed or merged. The resulting data will be made available in a smartphone app that will then be expanded to include a capacity utilization forecast for charging stations.
Open Data Model: Putting Policy In Place
In the latest ODM report, one of the key indicators of maturity – the policy framework – included an overview of whether the 27 EU Member States aligned the objectives of their open data policies with the six EC 2019-2024 priorities. It found that more than half of the ODM survey respondents (60%) had policies and strategies aligning with A European Green Deal.
This is important because the EC believes that a fully implemented open data policy has the potential to help governments enable more environmentally friendly cities, among other societal, economic, and environmental benefits. And from observation of litter, sea temperature and amphibian habitat data in Sweden to data on soil humidity, drinking water protection zones and yearly weather in Luxembourg, there is a wide variety of what the EC terms ‘environment’ datasets held by countries across Europe.
However, there is still clearly a long way to go in terms of open data maturity. The ODM report reveals that, in 2022, only 8 out of the 27 EU Member States said they held data on the impact of open data on the environment and connected issues. Furthermore, the reported 60% alignment with the EC’s European Green Deal priority is substantially lower than the 84% of countries saying that their open data policies or strategies align with the ‘Europe fit for the digital age’ priority.
How Is Public Sector Environment Data Being Used?
Nonetheless, where countries have forged ahead in this respect, the potential for using data to limit the carbon footprint of cities and other areas is clear. In assessing the environmental impact of open data maturity, the ODM report looked at several open data use cases, specifically: increasing awareness on biodiversity-related topics; enabling more environmental-friendly cities; raising awareness on climate change and connected disasters; and encouraging a lower consumption of energy based on fuel and the switch to renewables.
Among the success stories revealed in the report are:
Latvia’s Vides SOS app allows everyone to record environmental violations, report them to the relevant authorities, and get feedback on the progress of their remediation quickly and easily.
In Malta, the Environment and Resource Authority provides real time data regarding air quality online, which is widely reused to produce air pollution visualizations maps, air quality indexes, and street-level air quality, pollen, and wildfire intelligence.
The Czech Republic is running a project called the National Environmental Reporting Platform that focuses on available sources of environmental open data and analyzes their impact on the social, political, and legislative requirements caused by climate and environmental changes.
The Dutch city of The Hague is supporting the transition towards cleaner energy with the development of a Datalab, promoting data-driven working and data mindsets through data and trend analysis and risk projection, for example, and by helping to visualize the available datasets.
Spain’s Ministry of Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge launched the Climate Change Scenario Viewer, a useful tool for viewing and downloading data related to plausible representations of future climate. The service uses data fed by specific projections from the AEMET (State Meteorological Agency) and the grid projections from the international Euro-CORDEX initiative.
Open Data Model: A Greener Europe
What do these use cases tell us about the potential for open data to help deliver the EC’s priority of a European Green Deal? 75% of EU Member States say that they see the use of open data in their countries as having an impact on environmental issues. In three countries, ‘Environment’ is also the top category of dataset visited on the national data portal.
Looking ahead, the scope for using the increasing volume of environmental data to address climate-related issues continues to expand. Our work on the ODM report leads us to recommend that both public and private organizations should disclose environmental, social and governance related data to the wider public, so that everyone can reap benefits. This will contribute to Europe achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals and realizing the European Green Deal.
The ODM will continue to observe how European countries are measuring and monitoring their environmental impact across the four areas of: biodiversity-related topics; smart cities; awareness on climate change and related disasters; and energy. As actions towards achieving the European Green Deal mature, and countries start to publish high-value datasets (especially categories related to the environment, notably earth observation & environment, meteorological, and mobility), we expect to see an increase in the volume of data-led environmental use cases and more examples of organizations using open data for their projects and initiatives.