The international community has issued a rallying call for greater investments in weather forecasts, early warning systems, and climate services – known as hydromet – to boost climate change adaptation and resilience to extreme weather.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the first Hydromet Gap report “tells us how far we need to go to ensure all people have access to accurate, timely weather and climate information.”
“But for accurate forecasts, we need reliable weather and climate data. Today, large gaps remain in basic weather data, particularly in Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries. These affect the quality of forecasts everywhere, particularly in the critical weeks and days when anticipatory actions are most needed,” said the UN Secretary-General.
The Hydromet Gap report was launched at a high level event hosted by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs on 8 July. It was presented by leaders of the Alliance for Hydromet Development, which brings together the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and major international development, humanitarian and financial institutions.
“Our climate is rapidly changing. The past decade was the hottest on record. Global mean temperature is approximately 1.2 °C warmer than pre-industrial times. We are far off track from reducing global greenhouse gas emissions to avert the worst impacts of climate change.” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.
“Reliable weather and climate information and prediction is key to progress on all the SDGs, on the Paris agreement goals and on the Sendai targets. But large capacity gaps in hydromet development remain, particularly in countries most vulnerable to weather and climate extreme events.” said Laura Tuck, former Vice President for Sustainable Development, who moderated the event.
Indeed, the report shows that countries face severe challenges in the provision of hydrometeorological services. It presents the findings of the road-testing of the Country Hydromet Diagnostics, a standardized and integrated, operational tool of the Alliance for assessing hydromet services and guiding investment decision-making.
A first round was undertaken by the meteorological services of 16 countries through a peer-to-peer approach. The results of the Diagnostics revealed wide capacity gaps among the assessed countries. The weakest countries lacked the most basic capacity in terms of equipment, skills and user engagement, despite the clear and growing risks. Weather and climate observations, contribution to climate services and effective use by communities of such services ranked among the elements with the largest gaps.
Many countries, including in Africa, do not have the resources to generate long-term basic weather observational data, and therefore are unable to share it with the global system. In Africa, observations decreased by 50%. Due to the impacts of COVID-19, they have further decreased since January 2020. Vulnerable countries need long-term support to generate this data.
“Vulnerable communities need access to the very best of technology to adapt to the effects of climate change and reduce risk,” said UN Development Programme Administrator Achim Steiner.
“We cannot underestimate the economic and social value of weather forecasts, early warnings and high-quality climate information. They form the basis for effective policy and investment decisions in all sectors,” said José Ulisses de Pina Correia e Silva, Prime Minister of Cabo Verde, which, like many Small Island Developing States is particularly vulnerable to climate change.
“The Gap Report makes it really clear that we lack full timely data and knowledge on weather emergencies so that we can cope with them” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme.
The event included a panel discussion about the importance of basic observations and why it’s so important for find a new way to finance them. One of the commitments of the Alliance, the creation of the Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF) which aims to strengthen climate adaptation and resilient development through the sustained collection and international exchange of high-quality surface-based weather and climate observations.
Mafalda Duarte, CEO Climate Investment Funds, shared the lessons learnt from the CIF’s experience in supporting countries to deliver and use weather and climate data. “There is insufficient investment in key infrastructure and there are gaps in technical expertise to enable the collection, storage and processing of data”. Ms. Duarte adds that “Weather and climate products and services, what we call the ‘last mile’ of hydromet value chain, currently represent the weakest part of this value chain.”
Pa Ousman Jarju, Green Climate Fund (GCF) Director, reflected on the importance of observations for climate finance “Observations data support countries to identify, prioritise and design climate action, and this mobilizes donors and climate finance; it allows country-led decision-making; it builds-long term capacity and resilience”
“The core data on which all the information relies on is from in-situ weather stations operated by the national hydromet services.” He added that “experience has shown that removing the data from just one of this of these stations reduces the accuracy of the products in locations thousands of miles away in 5 to 7 days. The data from our stations should therefore be considered a global public good that cannot be replaced and upon which many users from the public and private sector rely.” said Carlos Fuller, United Nations Ambassador and Permanent Representative for Belize, representing the Alliance of Small Island States.
Gebru Jember, Regional Lead Global Green Growth Institute, shared the perspective of Least Developed Countries Group highlighting that “Unless we are able to generate the required information at the local level and then share it, then the results which come back to us will not have the required quality. It is not only about the initial investments, which is crucial, but the operationalization as well as calibration and maintenance of the instruments is crucial. This is a prerequisite in terms of really moving in a better way of adaptation planning.”
Speakers at the high-level event were united in their support for SOFF, as a priority action that is fundamentally needed to close the basic observations gap in an effective way. “The effectiveness of all our resilient development and climate action depends on our ability to close these gaps” concluded Ms Tuck.
The event ended with the closing remarks of the Special Advisor to the Secretary General, Selwin Hart “As the pace of the climate crisis accelerates, so too must our responses to build in resilience. The Systematic Observation Financing Facility is a type of innovative mechanism we need for transformational adaptation action and this make or break year for climate action. We must spare no effort to protect people, communities and their livelihoods.”