Sustainable Development, Global Change and Ecosystems: thematic priority 6 under the Focusing and Integrating Community Research programme 2002-2006.
Sustainable development is a central objective of the European Union. In this context, global change, energy security, sustainable transport, sustainable management of Europe's natural resources, and their interaction with human activities motivate this research action priority theme.
in the FP6, the sustainable development is divided in three individual sub- priority areas:
- Sustainable energy systems;
- Sustainable surface transport;
- Global change and ecosystems.
To strengthen the scientific and technological capacities Europe needs to be able to implement a sustainable development model in the short and in the long term, integrating its social, economic and environmental dimensions, and to make a significant contribution to the international efforts to mitigate or even to reverse current adverse trends, to understand and control global change and preserve the equilibrium of ecosystems.
The Community activities carried out under this thematic area will cover the following three areas:
- Sustainable energy systems;
- Sustainable surface transport;
- Global change and ecosystems.
1.) Sustainable energy systems The objectives of research into sustainable energy systems include reducing greenhouse gases and pollutant emissions, increasing the security of energy supplies, improving energy efficiency and increasing the use of renewable energy, as well as enhancing the competitiveness of European industry and improving quality of life both within the EU and globally. A clear differentiation is made between research activities having the potential for exploitation in the short to medium term and those which are expected to have an impact in the medium to longer term:
a) Research activities having an impact in the short and medium term:
- Clean energy, in particular renewable energy sources and their integration in the energy system, including storage, distribution and use:
Activities aim at bringing the next generation of more cost-effective renewable energy technologies to the market. The objective is to explore ways to reduce the costs of the energy delivered by specific renewable energy technologies, in the form of green electricity, heating/cooling, and liquid/gaseous biofuels.
Research on the large scale integration of renewable energy sources into energy supplies will support the EU in its commitment to reduce energy intensity which require substantial increases in the adoption of innovative technologies for the management of energy demand.
- Energy savings and energy efficiency, including those to be achieved through the use of renewable raw materials:
Research activities will concentrate in particular on Eco-Buildings to generate energy savings and improve environmental quality and quality of life for occupants. "Polygeneration" activities will aim to reduce the demand for primary energy by improving the efficiency of providing electricity, heating and cooling services in parallel.
Research will focus on improving savings and efficiency mainly in the urban context, in particular in buildings, through the optimisation and validation of new concepts and technologies, including combined heat and power and district heating/cooling systems; opportunities offered by on-site production and use of renewable energy to improve energy efficiency in buildings.
- Alternative motor fuels:
Activities under this heading will contribute to the mitigation of both greenhouse gas emissions growth, over-dependence on oil and the promotion of biofuels for transport applications. Research will concentrate on biofuels, natural gas and hydrogen.
Research will focus on the integration of alternative motor fuels into the transport system, particularly into clean urban transport; the cost-effective and safe production, storage, and distribution (including fuelling infrastructure) of alternative motor fuels; the optimal utilisation of alternative fuels in new concepts of energy efficient vehicles; strategies and tools to manage the market transformation process for alternative motor fuels.
b) Research activities having an impact in the medium and longer term:
- Fuel cells, including their applications:
Activities under this area aim to reduce the cost and improve the performance, durability and safety of fuel cell systems for stationary and transport applications, to enable them to compete with conventional combustion technologies. This includes the optimisation and simplification of fuel cell components and sub-systems as well as modelling, testing and characterisation protocols.
Research will focus on cost reduction in fuel cell production and in applications for buildings, transport and de-centralised electricity production; advanced materials related to low and high temperature fuel cells for the above applications.
- New technologies for energy carriers/transport and storage, in particular hydrogen:
The aim is to develop new concepts for long term sustainable energy supply where hydrogen and clean electricity are seen as major energy carriers. For hydrogen, the strategic research areas are: clean production, innovative storage methods, basic materials, safety and preparing the transition to a hydrogen energy economy. For electricity, the strategic research areas include: a new approach for large-scale implementation of Distributed Energy Resources (DER) in Europe and the development of key enabling technologies.
- New and advanced concepts in renewable energy technologies:
The aim is to decrease the cost of electricity and fuel to make these technologies competitive with conventional fuels. In photovoltaics, the research will focus on the whole production chain from basic material to the PV system, as well as on the integration of PV in habitat and large scale MW-size PV systems for production of electricity. Research in biomass will address production, combustion technologies, gasification technologies for electricity and H2/syngas production and biofuels for transport. For other renewable energy sources the effort will be focused on wind, geothermal, ocean and concentrated solar thermal energy.
- Capture and sequestration of CO2, associated with cleaner fossil fuel plants:
The aim is cost effective capture and sequestration of CO2 to include the use of fossil fuels in a sustainable energy supply scenario. For capture and sequestration of CO2, the strategic research areas are: post-combustion CO2 capture, pre-combustion CO2 capture, geological sequestration of CO2 and chemical/ mineral sequestration of CO2.
- Socio-economic tools and concepts for energy strategy:
The activities aim at developing common and harmonised tools to tackle the complex social and economic issues of new energy technologies. Research should concentrate on investing the following four areas: energy total costs; social acceptability and behaviour; socio-economic impact of sustainable policies and; quantitative and qualitative forecasting methods.
2.)Sustainable surface transport
The aim is to develop environmentally friendly transport systems and means of transport to reduce the contribution of surface transport (rail, road, waterborne) to CO2 production and other emissions including noise, while increasing safety, comfort, quality, cost-effectiveness and energy-efficiency of vehicles and vessels. Emphasis will be given to clean urban transport and rational use of the car in the city.
- New technologies and concepts for all surface transport modes (road, rail and waterborne):
Research will focus on: high efficiency propulsion systems and their components, based on alternative and renewable fuels, taking into account the fuelling infrastructure; development of zero or near zero emission propulsion systems and components, in particular those integrating fuel cells, hydrogen combustion and their fuelling infrastructure into the transport system; integrated concepts for clean urban transport and rational use of the car in urban locations.
- Advanced design and production techniques:
Research activities under this objective will focus on: "transport-specific" advanced design and production techniques, in particular for one-of-a-kind production environments, leading to improved quality, safety, recycling, comfort and cost-effectiveness of environmentally friendly vehicles (cars and trains) and vessels.
- Rebalancing and integrating different transport modes:
Research under this objective will focus on: interoperable transport systems, to enable the interconnectivity of the transport networks, in particular enabling a competitive European railway system and the integration of a European vessel traffic information system; intermodal transport services, technologies (e.g. harmonisation of unit loads) and systems, and advanced logistics.
- Increasing road, rail and waterborne safety and avoiding traffic congestion:
Research will focus on: strategies and technologies to increase road safety and to improve maritime safety; concepts and systems for advanced human-vehicle, and vehicle-infrastructure interaction; large-scale integration and validation platforms for intelligent transport systems (e.g. transport pricing, transport and traffic management and transport information), including satellite navigation applications, new vehicle types and operational procedures to increase capacity and safety, while respecting the environment (in particular in urban and sensitive areas).
3.) Global change and ecosystems The aim of the activities conducted under this theme is to strengthen the necessary scientific basis, including socio-economic assessments and tools and management practices, for the future orientation of the Sustainable Development Strategy and of the Sixth Environment Action Programme. Activities aim also at strengthening Europe's scientific and technological capacities to understand, and control global change preserve the ecosystems and protect biodiversity.
The "Global change and ecosystems" consists of the following research priorities:
- Impact and mechanisms of greenhouse gas emissions and atmospheric pollutants on climate, ozone depletion and carbon sinks:
The objective is to detect and describe global change processes, associated with greenhouse gas emissions and atmospheric pollutants from all sources, including those resulting from energy supplies, transport and agriculture, to improve prediction and assessment of their global and regional impacts, evaluate mitigation options and improve the access of European researchers to facilities and platforms for global change research. Research will concentrate on carbon and nitrogen cycles, atmospheric pollutants and their regional impacts, climate dynamics and variability, prediction of climatic change and its impacts, stratospheric ozone and climate interactions and adaptation and mitigation strategies.
- Water cycle, including soil-related aspects:
The objective is to understand the mechanisms and assess the impact of global change and in particular climate change on the water cycle, water quality and availability, as well as soil functions and quality to provide the bases for management tools for water systems to mitigate the impacts. The research will focus on hydrology and climate processes the ecological impacts of global change, soil functioning and water quality, integrated management strategies and mitigation technologies, and scenarios of water demand and availability.
- Biodiversity and ecosystems: The objective is to develop a better understanding of marine and terrestrial biodiversity and of ecosystem functioning, understand and minimise the impacts of human activities on them and ensure sustainable management of natural resources and terrestrial and marine ecosystems and the protection of genetic resources. The research will focus on assessing and forecasting changes in biodiversity, structure, function and dynamics of ecosystems and their services; with emphasis on marine ecosystems' functioning; relationships between society, economy, biodiversity and habitats; integrated assessment of drivers affecting ecosystems' functioning and biodiversity, and mitigation options; risk assessment, management, conservation and rehabilitation options in relation to terrestrial and marine ecosystems.
- Mechanisms of desertification and natural disasters: The objective is to understand the mechanisms of desertification and natural disasters, including their links with climatic change so as to improve risk and impact assessment and forecasting, and decision support methodologies. Research will focus on mechanisms of desertification and natural disasters.
- Strategies for sustainable land management, including coastal zones, agricultural land and forests:
The objective is to contribute to the development of strategies and tools for sustainable use of land, with emphasis on the coastal zones, agricultural lands and forests, including integrated concepts for the multipurpose utilisation of agricultural and forest resources, and the integrated forestry/wood chain in order to ensure sustainable development at economic, social, and at environmental levels. Research will focus on sustainable land-use and on addressing the qualitative and quantitative aspects of the multifunctionality of the agriculture and forestry/wood chain.
- Operational forecasting and modeling, including global climate change observation systems:
The objective is to make systematic observations of atmospheric, terrestrial and oceanic parameters including those of climate so as to improve forecasting of the marine, terrestrial and atmospheric environment, consolidate long-term observations for the modeling and in particular prediction, establish common European data bases and contribute to international programmes. The research will focus on development of observing and forecasting systems.
- Complementary research:
The objective is to focus on the development of advanced methodologies for risk assessment of processes, technologies, measures and policies, the appraisal of environmental quality, including reliable indicators of population health and environmental conditions and risk evaluation in relation to outdoor and indoor exposure. Relevant pre-normative research on measurements and testing for these purposes will also be necessary. The research will focus on the development of advanced methodologies for risk assessment, and the appraisal of environmental quality, population health and monitoring tools.
- Cross-cutting issue: Sustainable development concepts and tools:
The objective is to develop concepts and tools to characterise the sustainability dimension of the relevant policies. The precautionary principle and the regional aspects to sustainable development will be key elements to be taken into account. Sectoral networks of testing centres for environmental technologies will be created.
- Specific support actions:
Specific support actions aim to actively contribute to the implementation of the work programme, the analysis and dissemination of results or the preparation of future activities, with a view to enabling the Community to achieve or define its RTD strategic objectives. These actions will also aim to encourage and facilitate the participation of SMEs and stimulate international cooperation.
The Commission is responsible for the implementation of the specific programme. The Commission draws up a work programme for the implementation of the specific programme, setting out in greater detail the objectives, scientific and technological priorities and the timetable for implementation. The work programme shall take account of relevant research activities carried out by the member states, associated states and European and international organisations and shall be updated where appropriate.
The Commission is assisted by a committee. The Commission reports regularly on the overall progress of the implementation of the specific programme, including information on financial aspects and the use of instruments. The Commission arranges for an independent monitoring and assessment of the framework programme. In carrying out the programme, the Commission may have recourse to technical assistance.
The networks of excellence and integrated projects will be used from the start of the programme and, where deemed appropriate, as a priority means, while maintaining the use of specific targeted projects and co-ordination actions. In addition to research and technological development, they may incorporate the following types of activity, where they are of specific relevance to the objectives sought:
- demonstration, dissemination and exploitation;
- co-operation with researchers and research teams from third countries;
- human resource development, including the promotion of training of researchers;
- development of research facilities and infrastructure of specific relevance to the research being undertaken and;
- promotion of better links between science and society, including women in science.
Specific targeted research projects and co-ordination actions, as well as specific support actions, may also be used in the spirit of the 'stairway of excellence'. However, the size of projects is not a criterion for exclusion, and access to new instruments is ensured for SMEs and other small entities.
During the implementation of this specific programme and in the research activities arising from it, fundamental ethical principles must be respected. These include the principles reflected in the Charter of fundamental rights of the EU, including protection of human dignity and human life and of personal data and privacy.