The World Meteorological Organization’s ruling Congress has adopted a landmark declaration on strengthening links between the public, private and academic sectors so that countries can better tackle the risks related to extreme weather, climate, water and other environmental events.
“This is a clear call to governments about the importance of effective engagement and the contribution that academia and the private sector can make to the wellbeing of the WMO Members, and the citizens that we serve as Members, in ensuring that the best and most effective services, forecasts and warnings are provided,” said David Grimes, President of WMO.
“In the context of climate change and the increasing number of extreme events that we see worldwide, the capacity of the private sector and their capabilities, brought together with Members, working as partners, can actually be more effective in ensuring those early warning systems and addressing climate risk and climate resilience,” he added.
The “Geneva Declaration – 2019: Building Community for Weather, Climate and Water Actions” was approved on 12 June by the World Meteorological Congress – which groups the 193 WMO Member states and territories.
While national meteorological and hydrological services are the mainstay of observation infrastructure and data collection, analysis and provision – a fact underlined by the Geneva Declaration – the role of the private sector is growing fast. Companies are not just consumers of data that is essential for sectors ranging from transport to agriculture. They have also become increasingly important as providers of information that they repackage for parts of the public sector, businesses and wider society.
The Geneva Declaration underlines the “need to strengthen the entire weather, climate and water services value chain – from acquisition and exchange of observations and information, through to data processing and forecasting, and service delivery – to meet growing societal needs”, and points to the “evolving capabilities and growing engagement of the private sector in contributing to all links of the value chain and accelerating innovation”.
It also notes that “the expanding opportunities to use meteorological, climatological, hydrological and related environmental information and services to inform critical decisions can foster increased societal and structural resilience, and sustainable economic development.”
In addition, it sets the work of WMO and its Members squarely in the context of international agreements adopted in 2015 that are setting global policy: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the core of which are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals; the Paris Agreement on climate change; and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.
“Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals will benefit from inclusive partnerships amongst public, private and academic sectors, as well as civil society, at global, regional, national and local levels,” the Geneva Declaration says.
To ensure such partnerships go smoothly, it underlines the importance of contributing collectively; respecting shared values; promoting sustainability of the global infrastructure; free and unrestricted international data sharing; bridging gaps in developing countries; fostering and maintaining fair and transparent arrangements, for example on access to commercial data; and respecting the sovereign right of Members to decide how weather, climate and water services are organized and provided.
To achieve its ends, it calls on governments to take a number of steps, including to foster structured dialogue between public, private and academic sectors at the national and international levels; to safeguard and strengthen the authoritative voice of national meteorological and hydrological services; to endeavour to put in place appropriate legislative and institutional arrangements to enable effective cross-sector partnerships; promote compliance with WMO standards and guidance by all stakeholders to enhance interoperability and the quality of data and products; and engage with civil society to extend the outreach to communities and citizens in particular to enhance public understanding and response to warnings of natural hazards.
“The Geneva Declaration is a watershed moment for WMO because it allows for the recognition that we’re all in this together, no-one is going to be left behind, and that the capabilities going forward and the contributions specifically that this community outside the standard national meteorological and hydrological services will make a real difference to citizens worldwide,” said Mr Grimes.
The WMO Congress takes place every four years and decides on the strategy, policies, standards, budget and office holders of the organization. This year’s session, which runs from 3-14 June, is discussing a sweeping reform of WMO’s governance structures to address major risks and meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world.
In the first week of congress, WMO also launched its Open Consultative Platform, as a mechanism to achieve the ambition of the Geneva Declaration through an open and constructive dialogue between the public, private and academic sectors.