The World Meteorological Organization wants to strengthen working relationships and partnerships with the United Nations Environment Programme and intensify mutual support on issues such as monitoring of air quality and greenhouse gas concentrations, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.
WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas discussed enhanced collaboration with incoming UNEP Executive Director Erik Stolheim during the UN Environment Assembly talking place in Nairobi, Kenya.
“WMO and UNEP are important strategic partners,” said Mr Taalas. “We can use our comparative advantages to achieve good results.” UNEP and WMO are co-sponsors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and work together on many projects such as on air quality and the ozone layer.
The U.N. Environment Assembly aims to tackle some of the most critical issues facing the planet, including air pollution, climate change and the illegal trade in wildlife.
Addressing the opening session, outgoing UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner noted that since the first UNEA held in 2014, “the environment has shifted from the margins of attention to the centre of global decision making” and now runs through the entire 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change, he said.
Weather, climate and hydrological services can support the implementation not only of the Paris Agreement and the Sendai Framework but also of many Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda, said Mr Taalas.
Mr Taalas participated in a Ministerial Policy Review session on “Healthy Environment, Healthy People,” focussing on the inter-linkages between climate change, environmental stressors, urbanization and human health.
“Global average surface temperatures in 2015 broke all previous records. For the first time on record, temperatures in 2015 were about 1°C above the pre-industrial era,” said Mr Taalas. He said that temperatures in 2016 had broken even 2015 levels.
Human health is very sensitive to environmental quality and climate. The implementation of the Paris Agreement should be seen as a critical opportunity to protect human health, he said. National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) are a valuable partner with health authorities to manage diseases such as malaria, dengue and meningitis, as well as respiratory problems linked to air quality.
On urbanization, Mr Taalas outlined the WMO’s integrated approach to urban issues to enhance the resilience of cities and their inhabitants. Climate change will alter patterns of urban energy consumption, particularly with respect to the energy needed for cooling or heating.
Any emissions reduction policies require accurate and precise measurements of atmospheric GHG concentrations and their changes over a wide-range of time and spatial scales. WMO is developing an Integrated Global Greenhouse Gas Information System to determine trends and distributions of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the ways in which they are consistent or not with efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Mr Taalas told the ministerial review.
On the sidelines of the UNEA, Mr Taalas also met with Mary Robinson, the newly appointed U.N. special envoy on El Niño and Climate, Kosi Latu, the Director of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, Barry Kashambo, Regional Director for the International Civil Aviation Authority, Deputy Prime Minister: Hon. Siaosi 'Ofakivahafolau Sovaleni, Vice Premier of Tonga, Prof Judy Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Kenya, and Ibrahim Thiaw, Deputy Executive Director of UNEP.