GCOS Conference: The Road to the Future

The Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) is developing an Implementation Plan to guide the development of the global climate observing system in the future.

The Global Climate Observation: the Road to the Future conference, to be held from 2 to 6 March 2016 in Amsterdam, Netherlands, will offer climate observation experts and other key stakeholders the opportunity to contribute to the Plan. This conference will discuss current monitoring of Essential Climate Variables (ECVs) and highlight possible new ECVs.

Climate observations are essential for understanding the complexities of the global climate system. Virtually all breakthroughs in understanding climate have come from observations. The Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC AR5) noted that there are gaps in the current global climate observing system. Thus, further progress towards achieving a fully implemented, sustainable, global observing system for climate is crucial. GCOS is responsible for ensuring a sustained, long term and reliable system for monitoring the global climate to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). An important aspect of this is the definition of ECVs, which are critical to our understanding of the climate and that support the work of the UNFCCC, the IPCC and many other international organizations and programmes. The next GCOS status report on the state of the global climate observing system, to be published before the end of the year, will help to critically assess the current system and provide a basis for the next Implementation Plan.

Conference Goals

As development of the new GCOS Implementation Plan is starting and due for completion in 2016, the conference will:

• Review of the outcomes of the previous GCOS work plan and the GCOS status report on the state of the global climate observing system; 
• Consider the adequacy of the existing set of ECVs;
• Focus on the demands that adaption and mitigation of climate change put on local and regional observing systems and whether these should be compatible with global observations;
• Consider how well the carbon cycle, hydrological cycle and energy flows are monitored and understood.

The new Implementation Plan will take into account requirements for observations with regard to climate services from various initiatives. New developments and frameworks in climate observing systems will also be considered.

The main outcome should be a list of priorities and additional actions that can be reasonably included in a new GCOS Implementation Plan considering feasibility, practicality and cost-performance. Guidance on how GCOS should align its work plan with other related activities and work programmes is also expected. These outcomes will then be elaborated in the new GCOS Implementation Plan and, if accepted by the GCOS Steering Committee, presented to the UNFCCC at the end of 2016. 

For more information on the conference, visit the following website.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Visits Climate Research Base

United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, visited the GCOS Reference Upper-Air Network (GRUAN) site in Ny-Ålesund, Norway on 8 July 2015. During his stay, the UN Secretary-General and the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Børge Brende, also visited the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research and the French Polar Institute Paul Emile Victor (AWIPEV) base located in the Arctic, Svalbard, Kongsfjorden. The base was founded in 2003 and is known as the “largest laboratory for modern Arctic research”, bringing together researchers from across the globe, and from different polar research facilities. During their visit, they were informed about climate research and the work at the base.

Ban Ki-moon and Børge Brende launching a weather balloon at the AWIPEV base. (Photo: Shadé Barka Martins)

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