The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) are to announce at COP26 a new United Nations Coalition Fund to significantly improve the collection of essential weather and climate data and boost the international response to climate change.
The Systematic Observations Finance Facility (the SOFF) will plug the data gaps that undermine our understanding of past and current climate, as well as our capacity to predict and project future climate scenarios. This, in turn, weakens international efforts to prepare for and respond to extreme weather events such as floods, hurricanes and drought.
To respond to the explosive growth in the demand for weather and climate data to support essential services needed by all sectors of society, last week 193 Member countries and territories of the World Meteorological Congress approved an integrated package including a Unified Data Policy, the Global Basic Observing Network (GBON), and the SOFF, to dramatically strengthen the world’s weather and climate services.
“If you don't have observations, then you are not able to provide good forecasts”, said Petteri Taalas, WMO Secretary-General. “We have major data gaps in our observing systems in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific islands and some parts of Latin America. Those countries are not able to provide high quality early warning services because they don't have enough input data for the forecast models.”
Over the next ten years, the SOFF will build capacity in 75 Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries to enable them to generate and exchange essential weather and climate data, in compliance with internationally agreed standards of GBON.
The SOFF will have life-saving impact in the most vulnerable countries to climate change, where decades of progress can be wiped out by a single extreme event. However, the benefits of SOFF will be felt everywhere; countries across the globe will have access to improved weather forecasts and climate services at a critical time when impacts of climate change are intensifying everywhere.
According to Achim Steiner, Administrator of UNDP, the SOFF is a win-win for all.
“Extreme weather and climate events are now increasing in frequency, intensity and severity as a result of climate change. Vulnerable communities are amongst the hardest hit. To help address this, they need access to the very best of technology to adapt to the effects of climate change and reduce risk.”
Weather and climate observations enabled by the SOFF are essential if the world community is to realize fully the 162 billion US dollars annually in socio-economic benefits of weather and climate prediction.
According to a recent World Bank report, the potential global disaster management benefits enabled by the SOFF are estimated at 66 billion US dollars per year and improved economic production resulting from better planning is estimated at about 96 billion US dollars annual. Weather-sensitive sectors such as agriculture, water, energy, transportation, construction and insurance will see the greatest benefits.
Recognising the value of the SOFF, countries are already providing indications of financial contribution. These will be unveiled at the event in Glasgow on 3 November.
Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, emphasises that this new mechanism is vital if the planet is to stave off the worst impacts of climate change.
“As we look towards a planet potentially hurtling towards 3°C at the end of the century, we need to step up climate action dramatically and this must be underpinned by the best available science and data. The Systematic Observations Finance Facility is key to achieving this.”
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