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GGOS provides the metrological basis for Earth observations and it provides observations of important aspects of the Earth system, relevant to many societal areas. Therefore, GGOS is a key component for the Earth observation system.

The World Summit on sustainable development emphasized the need for more and better coordinated Earth observations. Subsequently, the ad hoc Group on Earth Observations (GEO) was established by the G8 meeting with the task to prepare an implementation plan for the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS). Three ministerial Earth Observation Summits (EOS) were held during the lifetime of this ad hoc GEO, and EOS-II identified nine Societal Benefit Areas (SBA) of Earth observations. The Implementation Plan for GEOSS, which accepted by EOS-III in 2005 is built around these nine SBAs, which include the broad areas of Climate, Weather, Health, Energy, Water, Disasters, Biodiversity, and Agriculture, Ecosystems. EOS-III also established GEO as a permanent organization.

It is worthwhile to mention that GGOS was established at about the same time as the ad hoc GEO. IAG joint GEO as a Participating Organization at EOS-II, and IAG delegate its representation in GEO to GGOS.