The need to accelerate climate change adaptation and improve multi-hazard early warning systems to increase resilience to extreme weather took centre-stage at WMO’s Regional Association for Asia and the Pacific (RAV), hosted by Tonga from 15-17 October.
The meeting, held every four years, received presentations from WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas on the proposed WMO governance reform to to increase efficiency and effectiveness. 'Ofa Fa'anunu, head of the Tonga Meteorological Services and Permanent Representative of Tonga with WMO, was elected President to succeed Andi Eka Sakya of Indonesia. Mr Tauala Katea of Tuvalu was elected vice president.
Tonga is ranked number two in the world risk index of the most vulnerable countries to the increasing effects of natural disasters. Climate change remains the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific, Prime Minister ʻSamiuela Akilisi Pōhiva told the opening session.
He said that this was reaffirmed by the special report released last week by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C Celsius.
“Our island nations will face huge challenges ahead and the grave risks of exceeding 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels – an upper limit of warming small islands states have advocated for many years. This report is a wakeup call for us - we no longer have time for complacency or delay on taking action to avert dangerous climate change. Extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones, floods and drought experienced in the Pacific and in Asia in the recent years continue to affect our economies. And the trend is increasing,” he said.
Recognizing the importance of early warning and early action to help save lives and property, the government of Tonga is investing close to 40 Million US Dollars in strengthening its Multi Hazard Early Warning System.
New Sea Level Monitoring Station
Coinciding with the RAV session, the Prime Minister officially commissioned a new Pacific Sea Level and Geodetic Monitoring station in the capital Nukuʻalofa to provide high quality sea level and climate information to support better coastal planning and preparedness.
The new station was financed by the Australian Government and its installation was managed by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and the Pacific Community (SPC). It is the most technologically advanced of 14 such stations in the Pacific Sea Level Monitoring network and replaces an existing project station installed in 1993. It features the traditional acoustic sensor used to monitor sea level around the world, as well as two radar sensors and a pressure sensor to simultaneously measure changes in water level. It includes an in-built Automatic Weather Station, measuring barometric pressure, air temperature, wind speed and direction and water temperature and sends the data every minute via satellite communications so it can be viewed in real time.
“We’re glad to have this new tide gauge in a location with less vessel traffic. The station also contributes to the region’s tsunami monitoring network, so it provides value across the Pacific,” said Tonga Meteorological Director ‘Ofa Fa’anunu.
Partnerships for action
WMO Secretary-General Taalas said that climate change adaptation focusing on disaster risk reduction and effective early warning systems will be a top priority given the trend towards more frequent and intense extreme weather. WMO is therefore working to strengthen the capacities of the National Meteorological Services, including modernizing their infrastructure, building human and technical resources and raising their political visibility.
Against this background, WMO is establishing effective partnerships with climate finance mechanisms such as the Adaptation Fund and the Green Climate Fund, World Bank and the Asian Development Bank and other development partners.
“I am also anticipating a growing role of NMHSs with a broader scope of responsibilities than ever before. In this context, a partnership with private sector is essential to provide high quality weather, climate and water services for the coming years. The growing community of the Global Weather Enterprise (GWE) will bring together the public and private sectors and academia and work to foster innovative hydro-meteorological services business models,” said Mr Taalas.
He said that the proposed WMO Constituent Body Reform would allow the WMO community to better serve its Members by promoting further efficiencies and effectiveness of our structures, making the best use of existing resources and expertise.
Strengthening Hydro-meteorological and Early Warning Services in the Pacific
Ahead of the regional session, representatives from Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu provided updates on progress and priorities in the development of their early warning systems.
“Strengthening Hydro-meteorological and Early Warning Services in the Pacific” is a three-year project worth US$5 million, funded by the Climate Risk and Early Warnings Initiative (CREWS) and Environment and Climate Change Canada. CREWS is supported by the governments of Australia, France, Germany, Luxembourg and The Netherlands.