WMO and the new urban agenda

WMO and the new urban agenda

Some 3.5 billion people reside in urban areas. This number is projected to reach 6.3 billion by 2050, increasing from 50% to more than 70% of the world’s population.  This poses both opportunities and challenges.

About 70% of greenhouse gas emissions come from urban areas, which consequently offer huge potential for climate change mitigation through increased energy efficiency and a move away from polluting forms of production.

Urban development is now a cornerstone of the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. It has its own sustainable development goal (SDG 11): Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. WMO will contribute to the new urban agenda developed by HABITAT III (Quito, Ecuador 17-20 October, 2016).

WMO urban activities

WMO is promoting safe, health and resilient cities through the development of specially tailored integrated urban weather, climate and environmental services. The aim is to build urban services that meet the special needs of cities and their growing population.

These services are needed by

  • Emergency managers to map out risks and provide early warnings.
  • Transport departments to minimize emissions and disruptions from extreme weather,
  • Health providers to prepare heat-action plans and responses to severe pollution
  • Energy managers to optimize production.
  • Water departments  to manage the impact of floods and water shortages
  • Urban planners to reduce vulnerability of buildings and infrastructure to sea-level rise and natural hazards
Multi-hazard early warnings

Megacities are often built on coastlines, and so are exposed to simultaneous hazards such as devastating winds, storm surge, coastal inundation and inland flooding in the event of a tropical cyclone. Heat-waves often worsen air quality and are themselves exacerbated by the urban heat-island effect which can raise temperatures by up to 5-10°C.

WMO is therefore promoting impact-based forecasting and multi-hazard early warning systems. 

Environmental Monitoring

Air pollution is a special concern and has become a silent epidemic in many urban centres and is linked to 7 million premature deaths. Outdoor air pollution, which causes 3.7 million deaths a year, is interlinked with weather. 

Heat can exacerbate health problems linked to air quality (from both pollution and pollen). Wind can bring in pollution from remote sources or blow away local air pollutants. The pollution from megacities can be transported thousands of kilometres and contributes to overall hemispheric background pollution and contribute to the climate change.

The WMO Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) established the Urban Research Meteorology and Environment (GURME) project in order to further study the relationship between air quality and weather and other environmental factors.  Its international network, together with the GAW Application Science Advisory Group, is ideally placed to provide scientific data on atmospheric composition from the global to urban scales to inform sound decision-making.

The EU Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service (CAMS) is an important contributor to GAW by providing near-real-time data analyses and forecasts on multiple atmospheric chemical constituents of relevance to air quality and other environmental issues at a global and regional scale. Details of CAMS available here

GURME facilitates many urban air quality pilot projects such as System of Air quality and weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR), which was setup for the 2010 India Commonwealth Games to deliver location-specific air pollution forecast. SAFAR now provides air quality information for up to 3 days ahead for Pune, Delhi and Mumbai.

WMO participates in the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and works closely with partners such as the UN Environment Programme and the World Health Organization to improve air quality, protect public health and cut emissions of pollutants which contribute to global warming.

WMO brochure on sustainable cities available here