Bridgetown, Barbados, hosts on 6 February the first regional launch of the United Nations’ Early Warnings for All initiative (EW4ALL), which aims to ensure that every person on Earth is covered by an early warning system by the year 2027. WMO is one of the leading partners in the initiative.
Caribbean leaders, including the Prime Minister of Barbados, Her Excellency, Mia Mottley, the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, His Excellency, Philip J. Pierre, the Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Dr. Carla Barnett, and the Executive Director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), Elizabeth Riley, are launching the initiative. The Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina J. Mohammed, the Head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), Mami Mizutori, the Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Professor Petteri Taalas, and the UN Resident Coordinator for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Didier Trebucq, are also participating.
The “Regional Launch of the Early Warnings for All Initiative (EW4ALL) for the Caribbean” aims to drive coordinated political action towards strengthening multi-hazard early warning systems for hazards such as hurricanes, tropical storms, tsunamis, volcanoes, floods, landslides, and epidemics, among others. It coincides with a WMO Regional Conference “Increasing weather, water and climate resilience in North America, Central America and the Caribbean” taking place in Kingston, Jamaica, from 6 to 9 February 2023.
The Executive Action Plan for the implementation of the EW4ALL initiative was unveiled by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres during the COP 27 Climate Change Conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, to achieve the goal of every person on Earth being protected by early warning systems by 2027, with the priority to support the most vulnerable. It calls for investment across disaster risk knowledge, observations and forecasting, preparedness and response, and communication of early warnings.
Leaders are expected to emphasize the importance of strengthening and coordinating early warning initiatives in the region as well as the need for joint leadership in the Caribbean to achieve coverage for all, especially for the most vulnerable.
They will also outline practical measures to ensure that EW4ALL is incorporated in disaster risk management strategies and to highlight the impact of various endeavours in the region, including the Climate Risk Early Warning Systems (CREWS) Caribbean Initiative and the Regional Early Warning System Consortium which is chaired by CDEMA.
“Enhancing early warning systems in the Caribbean is a long-standing priority for CDEMA and much progress has been made. However, in the context of the complex hazards faced by the region and the growing impact of climate change, much more is needed. The Early Warnings for All initiative offers us an opportunity to strengthen cooperation around investment in multi-hazard early warning systems to ensure the safety of the people of the Caribbean,” said, Elizabeth Riley, Executive Director of CDEMA.
In November 2022, at the COP27 Climate Change Conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, launched the Executive Action Plan for the implementation of the EW4ALL initiative. He asked WMO and UNDRR to co-lead its implementation.
“The number of weather-related disasters around the world has risen fivefold over the past 50 years, yet not all countries in the Caribbean have end-to-end early warning systems. The Early Warnings for All Initiative aims to ensure everyone receives such protection by 2027,” said Prof. Petteri Taalas, the Secretary-General of WMO.
“Launching Early Warnings for All in the Caribbean is a critical first step toward coalescing the national, regional, and global cooperation needed to ensure everyone on Earth, especially the most vulnerable populations, are protected by multi-hazard early warning systems,” said Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Head of UNDRR.
According to a report released by the UNDRR and the WMO last year, less than half of the countries around the world are not protected by multi-hazard early warning systems. Less than half of the least developed countries and only one-third of Small Island Developing States have a multi-hazard early warning system. This is despite the role of early warning systems in reducing disaster mortality by a factor of eight.
Early warning systems are among the most proven, cost-effective climate adaptation measures, that not only save lives but can also reduce economic losses in the wake of climate disasters. The Global Commission on Adaptation reported in 2019 that just 24 hours’ notice of an impending hazardous event can cut the ensuing damage by 30 per cent.
2021 was the Caribbean's fourth costliest hurricane season on record, with 21 named storms, including seven hurricanes. Moreover, only 30 per cent of the 19 Participating States and territories of CDEMA have established road maps for multi-hazard early warning systems.
To build the Caribbean’s climate and disaster resilience, it is vital that the region be offered the support it needs to develop multi-hazard early warning systems that enable early action.
The live stream for the event can be accessed here.