The eagerly-awaited Executive Action Plan for the UN Early Warnings for All initiative has been given a unanimous welcome and initial offers of support at COP27 from government leaders, heads of UN and development agencies, the private sector and civil society.
The plan calls for initial new targeted investments of $ 3.1 billion between 2023 and 2027, equivalent to a cost of just 50 cents per person per year to achieve UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ goal of ensuring that everyone on Earth is protected by life-saving warnings against increasingly extreme weather in the next five years.
“Vulnerable communities in climate hotspots are being blindsided by cascading climate disasters without any means of prior alert,” the UN Secretary-General said at a high-level round table during the Leaders Summit at COP27.
“People in Africa, South Asia, South and Central America, and the inhabitants of small island states are 15 times more likely to die from climate disasters. These disasters displace three times more people than war. And the situation is getting worse.”
“The Action Plan launched today sets out the way forward to right this wrong, and protect lives and livelihoods,” said Mr Guterres.
Sameh Hassan Shoukry, Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs and COP27 President said that the Early Warnings for All Action plan would be one of the centrepieces of the conference in Sharm el-Sheikh being seen as an “implementation” COP. “This is an implementation on the ground,” he said. A hub will be established in Cairo to increase the capacity of countries in Africa to monitor and warn of extreme weather events, he said.
The Presidents of Mozambique and Malawi, Prime Ministers of Finland and the Netherlands, and Ministers and senior officials from France, China, India, Japan, Pakistan were among those attending the high-level event and pledging financial, practical or technological support for the Early Warnings for All initiative. More is expected to be announced at special events during the course of COP27.
The heads of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, the World Food Programme, International Organization, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, as well as top officials from the World Bank and regional development banks also attended the round table.
The UN chief had first announced the early warnings target back in March and asked WMO to spearhead the initiative. The $3.1 billion figure represents a small fraction – roughly six percent - of the requested $50 billion in adaptation financing.
“Climate change is the biggest long-term threat for the welfare of mankind,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas. “The most powerful way to adapt to climate change is to invest in early warning systems,” he said.
The plan is based on four main pillars: disaster risk knowledge, observations and forecasting, preparedness and response, and communication of early warnings. The aim is to increase and leverage funding for ongoing activities such as the Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems Initiative, the Systematic Observations Financing Facility and other initiatives, and to strengthen coordination.
The number of recorded disasters has increased five-fold, but despite this, half of all countries do not have early warning systems in place, and even fewer have regulatory frameworks to link early warnings to emergency plans.
Coverage is worst for developing countries on the front lines of climate change, namely the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
But that can and must change.
“It is a dream we can make come true,” said Microsoft President and Vice Chair Brad Smith.
“We need to connect the power of data with the power of Artificial Intelligence so we can hone our predictive capabilities. This is why we at Microsoft wholeheartedly support this initiative. May it succeed!” he said.