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Geneva (10 July 2013) An ambitious international drive to cushion the impact of climate variability and change through the provision of user-orientated climate services like seasonal outlooks, drought and flood advisories will be accelerated thanks to decisions taken at an intergovernmental meeting organized by the World Meteorological Organization.
At its first session 1 to 5 July 2013, the Intergovernmental Board on Climate Services agreed on an operational road map for the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS). This is a country-driven initiative to provide accurate and accessible climate services to users all over the world, with an initial focus on the agriculture, water, health and disaster management communities.
“The urgency in achieving early successes in this endeavour cannot be overstated,” said WMO President David Grimes. “We have seen many recent examples of climate-related extreme events with enormous negative social and economic impacts and the tragic loss of life.“
“In the past month, thousands of people fled their homes across central Europe as deadly flood waters rose to levels unseen in some locations in the past 500 years. Drought-fuelled wildfires raged in New Mexico and California, in the USA, and Pakistan suffered its most severe heat wave in decades, with temperatures reaching as high as 51 degrees Celsius,” Mr Grimes told the Board.
“Climate services are increasingly necessary because of the rapidly growing climatic impacts,” said Norwegian Meteorological Institute Director-General Anton Eliassen, who was elected as chair of the Board. “Climate services must be designed for the end user beginning with the customer, be it the malaria doctor, the fisherman or farmer. We need to think across boundaries. Cooperation is key,” said Mr Eliassen.
Laxman Singh Rathore, Director-General of the India Meteorological Department and Linda Makuleni, Chief Executive Officer of the South African Weather Services were elected co-Vice-Chairs of the Board.
The establishment of the GFCS was unanimously approved by the World Meteorological Congress in 2011. Since then, many governments and their agencies have made significant progress in developing national climate service action plans. There is also growing international momentum, thanks to the active involvement of UN agencies, the World Bank, many other development agencies, international organizations and the international Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, which are factoring in climate services into sectoral and development work.
Contributions and pledges to the GFCS total about 30 million Swiss francs to date, and are growing.
“Investment in climate services makes sense,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. “We are already seeing the effects of climate change and so we need to take action through the use of scientifically-based, user-focussed climate services to help protect our societies, our economies and our environment.”
“Now we have to move aggressively towards implementing the GFCS and into showing that this concept has turned into reality,” said Mr Jarraud.
The challenges remain considerable. An estimated 70 nations, including most of the Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States, have inadequate or no climate services and are ill-equipped to meet the challenges of both natural variations in the climate and human induced climate change.
In order to kick-start climate services at the national level, especially in vulnerable countries, WMO together with partners has launched pilot projects in Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, and Chad. Thanks to the participation of various donors there are projects to provide climate services in a number of other developing countries, including Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nepal, Tanzania, Viet Nam and Yemen.
To support regional level implementation, regional workshops on climate services for the Caribbean and for Least Developed Countries in Asia were held. Similar workshops will be held for the small islands states of the South West Pacific who are also a focus region for the development of climate services. This is important as the communities in this region will be heavily impacted by further changes in the climate.
The Intergovernmental Board took a number of important decisions to ensure that there is maximum coordination at the global, regional to the national levels and engage all stakeholders and strengthen interactions with the entire UN system and World Bank.
It agreed on a 28-member Management Committee to provide advice on a number of key tasks until the next meeting of the Intergovernmental Board, which will be hosted by Switzerland in November 2014.
The Intergovernmental Board also established a Partner Advisory Committee to ensure the continued active participation of UN agencies such as the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Food Programme, UN Development Programme, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, UN-Water, the World Bank and other development partners, as well as other relevant international governmental and non-governmental organizations.
The Board discussed the GFCS implementation plan, including progress in the initial priority areas of food security, water management, disaster risk reduction and health. It also discussed a compendium of projects, resource mobilization and pillars of the GFCS, including a platform to bring the providers and users of climate services together to ensure that the scientific information and predictions provided by National Meteorological and Hydrological Services is understandable and useful to the wide variety of different users.
The urgent need for climate services was underlined by a WMO report “The Global Climate 2001-2010: A Decade of Climate Extremes”. This showed that the world experienced unprecedented high-impact climate extremes during the decade, which was the warmest since the start of modern measurements in 1850 and continued an extended period of accelerating global warming. More national maximum temperature records were reported broken than in any previous decade.
The World Meteorological Organization is the United Nations System’s authoritative voice on Weather, Climate and Water
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