What is the Destination Earth initiative?
Destination Earth (DestinE) is a major initiative of the European Commission. It aims to develop a very high precision digital model of the Earth (a ‘digital twin’) to monitor and predict environmental change and human impact to support sustainable development. To achieve this ambitious goal, the Commission is joining forces with European scientific and industrial excellence to demonstrate how digital technologies can effectively contribute to a more sustainable and digital future.
To support tackling complex environmental challenges, DestinE will help policy-makers to:
- monitor and simulate the Earth’s system developments (land, marine, atmosphere, biosphere) and human interventions;
- anticipate environmental disasters and resultant socio-economic crises to save lives and avoid large economic downturns;
- enable the development and testing of scenarios for ever more sustainable development.
The DestinE can benefit from Member States investments under their Recovery and Resilience Fund Plans in combination with Digital Europe (in the context of the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking), and Horizon Europe for the related research activities.
DestinE for society and environment
Why DestinE for Europe?
Accessible and interoperable data are at the heart of data-driven innovation and ecological transition. DestinE will help to generate user-centric knowledge to support the objectives of the twin digital and green transitions. By relying on geo-spatial and the socio-economic data coupled with simulation models into ’digital twins‘, decision-makers, experts and non-expert users will have access to high-quality information, services, trustworthy models, scenarios, forecasts and visualisations in relation to major environmental and societal challenges. For the first time, guidance on the reliability of underlying predictions will support effective decision-making.
Doing everything we can to understand how our climate will evolve over the coming decades is vital, not only for mitigation policies, but also for building climate resilience. DestinE will offer a digital twin of the Earth system with unprecedented amounts of detail. Policy-makers will use it to better understand the impact of climate change e.g. on land use, food security or water resources, to better evaluate the potential impact of legislation and to design appropriate mitigating measures.
Users will have cloud–based access to DestinE models, algorithms, applications and natural and socioeconomic data to exploit and test their own models. The overall system and its components (open core platform, digital twins, and services) will be user-friendly and flexible to adapt to a wide spectrum of user needs and scenarios.
DestinE can bring innovation in expert systems for generating new knowledge. For example, energy providers can plan for long-term availability of weather-dependent renewable energy resources and design deep-mantle geothermal energy resourcing. Civil protection sector and reinsurance industry can test risk prevention and mitigation strategies and the effectiveness of the disaster risk management.
Key components of DestinE
Open Core Platform
At the heart of DestinE will be a user-friendly and secure cloud-based digital modelling and open simulation platform. It will open DestinE to a wide range of stakeholders from experts, scientists, and policy makers to individual users.
DestinE Data Lake
To effectively manage and offer various data sources, DestinE will use a dedicated Data Lake: a pool of data building on the federation of distributed data sources.
Digital Twins are mirrors of reality, simulators that replicate reality constrained by real time data. They have been used in industrial processes for improving the overall efficiency of the production. Now they enter many other sectors (energy, transport, health, smart cities, climate change, agriculture, etc.)
DestinE digital twins, are digital replicas of the highly complex Earth system, and will be built under thematic categorisations from the different domains of Earth science, such as extreme natural disasters, climate change adaptation, oceans, or biodiversity. The ultimate aim is to integrate these digital replicas to form a comprehensive digital twin of the complete Earth system.
Initial phase (by end of 2023): First Digital Twins
The Extreme Natural Disasters Digital Twin will combine data with simulation capabilities of unprecedented levels of speed and interactivity. Decision-makers will be able to anticipate the occurrence and impacts of extreme natural events (e.g. flooding, droughts, forest fires) with increased precision. Information on reliability of the underlying predictions will help them to assess how trustworthy their risk management strategies are likely to be.
Example: Flood or drought management plans for vulnerable river basins. Authorities and policy makers will be able to test the effectiveness of possible mitigating actions:
- In civil protection: development of high-resolution local emergency management plans;
- In agriculture: the reuse of wastewater and drought resistant crops;
- In energy & transport: preparing for disruptions for hydropower and cooling for thermal power plants
The Climate Change Adaptation Digital Twin will be used to predict the impact of climate change with unprecedented reliability at regional and national levels. It will support the EU and MS in developing trustworthy and reliable adaptation strategies to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Example: DestinE will support smart agriculture. Building on data analysis and relevant trends (e.g. projected rainfall or drought seasons and their correlation with possible plant diseases or infestations), it will help to adopt more cost-efficient and sustainable farming strategies. DestinE will give agriculture authorities guidance on the quality of the underlying predictions and thus help them to assess the trustworthiness of their measures.
Other Digital Twins
Beyond 2023, DestinE will support additional digital twins, such as ones involving oceans, biodiversity, or migration. In several Member States urban digital twins for smart cities are also emerging. These will contribute to achieving a full Digital Twin of the Earth.
Urban Digital Twins are a virtual representation of a city's environment: buildings, streets, parks, and trees.
Smart City & Urban Digital Twins @metamoworks by iStock
Using cutting-edge technologies such as cloud storage and HPC, they integrate real-time data through sensors (e.g. traffic signals, power grids) for use by city departments and policymakers through real-time visualisations to:
- improve urban planning and infrastructure management
- manage urban traffic
- predict extreme weather events
- improve waste collection
- reduce energy consumption
Under the European Commission leadership, and in coordination with the Member States, scientific communities and other stakeholders, three entrusted entities will implement the open core platform and the first two digital twins:
- Digital Europe Programme for implementation of the initiative
- Horizon Europe, the European Research Framework programme, for R&I activities in support of DestinE
- Recovery and Resilience Fund for activities of Member States linked with DestinE