A regional consultation aimed at improving weather and climate services is being held in the Cook Islands as part of a concerted drive to boost sustainable socio-economic development and disaster resilience in Small Island Developing States on the frontline of climate change and extreme events.
The meeting in Rarotongo from 31 March to 4 April is being sponsored by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and other key partners. It brings together experts from National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs), regional organizations, research institutions and decision-makers, as well as experts on agriculture and food security, water, health and disaster risk reduction.
The consultation aims to strengthen weather and climate services for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and ensure that the ongoing implementation of the Global Framework for Climate Services meets their unique needs and extreme vulnerability. Small islands in the Pacific are regularly exposed to extreme weather and climate-related hazards including, in recent months, tropical cyclones, coastal inundation, tidal surges, flooding and drought. Climate change and rising sea levels has increased the impact of these events.
The event is one of a series of initiatives spearheaded by WMO for the International Year of Small Island Developing States and in preparation for the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States in September 2014.
“Risk management, adaptation, and preparedness have grown more important than ever, as has the need for our cooperative frameworks to be strengthened,” said Cook Islands Prime Minister, Hon. Henry Puna, in an opening address to the meeting.
“The Global Framework for Climate Services should therefore continue to enhance our ability to manage and share vital information, and promote the necessary mechanisms to protect our vulnerable communities at the grassroots,” he said.
Mr Puna said the Cook Islands faced the “stark and perpetual reminder of the impacts of climate change and variability, and the services we depend on to safeguard the investments in our future.”
The vulnerability of SIDS was highlighted in a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released on 31 March. The report, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, from Working Group II of the IPCC, said that “some low-lying developing countries and small island states are expected to face very high impacts that, in some cases, could have associated damage and adaptation costs of several percentage points of GDP.”
The IPCC report said that the effects of climate change are already occurring on all continents and across the oceans and that the world was ill-prepared to cope. It also concluded that there are opportunities to respond to climate-related risks, though these would be difficult to manage with high levels of warming.
Risk Management and Climate Adaptation
The imperatives of risk-management and climate adaptation lies at the heart of the GFCS, which is an international initiative being spearheaded by WMO and a wide range of U.N. partners in collaboration with governments and stakeholders to roll-out user-driven climate services such as seasonal forecasts. The GFCS supports effective climate risk management and adaptation to climate variability and change, with priority being given to agriculture and food security, water, health and disaster risk reduction.
“Climate services make it possible to incorporate science-based climate information and prediction into planning and policy to achieve real benefits for society. This is needed because the challenges facing humanity today are increasingly complex, interconnected, in which climate plays a significant role,” said Felipe Lucio, Director of the GFCS Office.
"Collaboration is needed to build greater capacity from the global to the national level for managing the risks and opportunities of climate variability and change and for adapting to climate change. The results will be effective global partnership for identifying and meeting user needs for climate information; the effective application of climate observations, socio-economic data, models and predictions for solving national, regional and global problems; a system for transferring data, information products and services to inform decision making; and increased capacity around the world for producing and using climate services."
The workshop aims to improve and sustain the production, flow and application of climate information and to strengthen the dialogue between providers and users to ensure that climate services are accessible and relevant. It also seeks to identify capacity development needs and the necessary institutional arrangements to implement the GFCS in the Pacific region at regional, national and local levels.
Amongst other discussions there will be a consultation meeting on the third Pacific Meteorological Council Meeting to take place in 2015, as well as the Inception workshop of a regional meteorological project to help Reduce Vulnerability of the Pacific Island Country Villager' Livelihoods to the Effects of Climate Change, funded by the Government of Finland; and the planning workshop for the programme for implementation of the Global Framework for Climate Services at regional and national scales, funded by the Government of Canada.
The regional consultation for the Pacific Islands is one of a number of initiatives being undertaken within the framework of the GFCS to increase climate resilience.
On 27 March, WMO assisted in the launch of a new Regional Climate Centre for the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH), which will significantly improve the ability to understand and predict current and future climate-related issues in the Caribbean. The Programme for Building Regional Climate Capacity in the Caribbean is funded by an investment of US$5.085 million over the next three years from USAID.