A global initiative is gaining momentum to improve multi-hazard early warning systems and so boost the resilience of the most vulnerable countries to extreme weather and the impacts of climate change.
The Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems (CREWS) initiative aims to mobilize more than US$100 million by 2020 to strengthen risk information and early warning systems in least developed countries and small island developing states.
A CREWS steering committee meeting in Geneva on 29 June agreed plans to rollout additional activities in Africa with the approval of two new projects worth US$5.9 million in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Niger. It also assessed progress in existing projects in Burkina Faso, Mali and the Pacific and plans for new projects in the Caribbean and Papua New Guinea.
The World Meteorological Organization and the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) are implementing the CREWS initiative in partnership with the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. It is financed by Australia, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, and also supported by Canada. A trust fund hosted by the World Bank supports the activities of implementing partners.
“Every year, disasters caused by weather extremes such as tropical cyclones and severe storms, floods, heat waves and droughts lead to significant losses of life and socioeconomic impacts. Improved multi-hazard early warning systems are the most effective way to increase resilience and to adapt to climate change,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.
Mr Taalas praised the leadership of France in driving the initiative, which was initially launched at the UN Climate Change conference in Paris in December 2015.
“We are making real progress and will soon see a real, practical impact on the ground”said Brigitte Collet, ambassador for the negotiations on climate change, renewable energy and climate risk prevention. She urged other countries to increase financing to speed up expansion of CREWS.
In addition to their live-saving impact, improved weather forecasting and early warning could increase productivity globally by $30 billion a year, save $13 billion a year in reduced asset losses and save another US$ 22 billion a year in avoided losses, according to World Bank studies.
A number of countries have already strengthened their multi-hazard early warning systems by enhancing hydro-meteorological warning services and improving emergency plans and operations. But these life-saving systems and structures are missing or inadequate in many countries. CREWS aims to change that with its result-based approach.
The new funding for a project in Niger will establish warning systems for rapid-onset events like river and flash flooding. In the Democratic Republic of Congo the project will ensure optimal use of the national meteorological and hydrological service capabilities to protect river navigation, urban development in 10 cities, and agriculture against severe weather.
CREWS has already launched initiatives in Mali, Burkina Faso and several Pacific islands to strengthen forecast capabilities and ensure warnings reach all who need them.