The World Meteorological Congress has welcomed progress and the growing number of partners in a WMO-spearheaded initiative to improve the provision and use of climate services in priority areas of agriculture and food security, water management, health and disaster risk reduction.
The World Meteorological Congress on 27 May reviewed achievements – and stumbling blocks - in the implementation of the Global Framework for Climate Services, which seeks to help countries and communities prepare for, and cope with, climate variability and climate change.
Considerable support was voiced for adding the energy sector as a new priority, given the importance and potential of renewable energy.
“We want to make a difference,” said Jens Sunde (Norway), Chair of the Intergovernmental Board on Climate Services. “Our task is that the climate services provided make a real difference to people’s lives.”
Increasing numbers of countries, including in the developing world, are now rolling out climate services like seasonal outlooks, drought and heat monitors at national level, translating scientific advances into action on the ground for the benefit of society.
The GFCS is being implemented over two-, six-, and ten-year time frames. The first two years have been the start-up phase for establishing its infrastructure and coordination mechanisms to implement multi-disciplinary flagship projects (such as the one being implemented in Malawi and the United Republic of Tanzania). These flagship projects will act as the “proof of concept” of the GFCS.
After six years, it is intended that the flagship projects will be replicated in other parts of the world to ensure worldwide improvements in climate services for the priority areas. After 10 years, the aim is to have improved climate services throughout the world, across all climate-sensitive sectors and across global, regional and national scales.
About 70 countries currently have inadequate capacity for the development and use of climate services. The GFCS is giving priority to these countries, to try to kick start basic services. There is a special focus on building climate resilience in vulnerable countries, including Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries, with activities funded largely by Canada and Norway.
The challenges are huge, but momentum is growing.
For instance, Senegal is making tailored weather and climate information available to targeted farmers and fishermen. Indonesia has expanded a project with climate field schools nationwide. Jamaica issues 3-month projections for temperature and rainfall and is seeking to extend this to 6-month projections, and is working with agricultural extension workers to ensure maximum outreach to farmers. National climate outlook forums have been held in countries such as Mozambique, Belize, the Maldives, Papua New Guinea and Trinidad and Tobago, supported by funding from Environment Canada.
MeteoSwiss and the Peruvian meteorological service SENHAMI have joined forces in a twinning project between two high-mountain countries called CLIMANDES. Initial results of a pilot study showed that providing climate services for the coffee and maize sector in the Cusco region amount to about $10 million for the region, and $100 million for Peru as a whole over a ten-year period.
Partnerships and Synergies
In order to ensure that the information is accessible, relevant and understandable to users, the GFCS is embracing a growing number of partner organizations in different sectors.
The European Commission, EUMETSAT, Food and Agriculture Organization, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Global Water Partnership, IUGG, UN Environment Programme, UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, UN Insititute for Training and Research, World Bank, World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the World Food Programme, WMO are currently members of the Partner Advisory Committee.
“The Partner Advisory Committee is the synergy room of the GFCS,” said current chair Francesco Pisano of UNITAR. “The potential for synergy is great and the expertise in the agencies is great,” he said. UNITAR is preparing together with the GFCS Office an online training and education course about the GFCS which should be freely available by summer.
In statements to Congress, EUMETSAT and UNITAR both highlighted the role of satellite monitoring and imagery to support climate services, research, and help disaster preparedness and response.
The World Bank Group said it recognized the urgent need to scale up investments and capacity building to strengthen climate services. It is estimated that at least 25% of the world’s Gross Domestic Product is generated in climate and weather sensitive sectors. Building climate resilience is therefore critical to end extreme poverty and build sustainable development.
To meet the growing demand from the health sector for climate services to improve health outcomes, WMO set up a joint office with the World Health Organization.
“The true test of the collaboration, however, is not at the global level, but the extent to which we can support national Health and Meteorological Services to work and build their capacities with each other, and with the other GFCS priority sectors, to improve health on the ground,” said a WHO statement.
“Climate services have become a core part of our innovations in the areas of resilience, early warning, preparedness and analysis. These initiatives are increasingly important as extreme events grow in intensity and frequency due to climate change,” said WFP.
The FAO statement described GFCS as “an important instrument to strengthen the adaptive capacity of the agricultural population, and an essential pillar within the range of measures available to reduce climate risks, support livelihoods and protect assets.”
Despite the progress, coordination to ensure effective planning, exchange of information and linkage of initiatives to more effectively develop and apply climate services remains a challenge, according to IBCS chair Sunde. He said there was a need for more effective coordination and collaboration at global and national levels, and need for more resources.
The experience of Tanzania – one of the flagship projects involving multiple partners and funded by Norway – is being closely watched.
Agnes Kijazi, Director-General of the Tanzania Meteorological Agency, said lack of infrastructure for observations, analysis and communication was a major constraint, as was lack of human and financial resources.
“We have low capacity to develop user-specific products, but the need is increasing on a daily basis,” she said.
Farmers want to know about the onset of rain and the onset of rain early enough to know what type of crop to plant. They want to know the dry spells within the season, Dr Kijazi said. “There are challenges in developing the product for those specific needs of farmers.”
She said the meteorological agency was also trying to tailor more products for the health sector, especially given that rising temperatures is expected to lead to an increase in mosquito-born diseases.
But she said that progress was being made in reaching new user groups and convincing them to use scientifically-based forecasts, in addition to indigenous knowledge. “People now watch the weather forecast to the end,” she said.