Climate services for decision-making and effective adaptation was the theme of a side event at COP21, which examined how to optimize these services for effective climate risk management.
Organized by the Global Framework for Climate Services, the event examined the practical benefits of an organized, integrated system to ensure maximum coordination between providers and users of operational climate services like seasonal forecasts. It also provided lessons learned through partnerships at global to national level.
“Climate change and variability will continue to affect our future,” said Jens Sunde, Chair of the Intergovernmental Board on Climate Services. “This event is about the future and the climate services we need today to be prepared for tomorrow,” said Mr Sunde, who is from Norway’s meteorological service.
“The Global Framework for Climate Services was crafted in order to be able to communicate information from those who know to those who don’t,” said WMO President David Grimes.
The GFCS was initiated by the Third World Climate Conference in 2009 and is now being rolled out in many countries around the world, with priority being given to the estimated 70 countries which have few or no climate services.
Although spearheaded by the World Meteorological Organization, the GFCS embraces a wide-ranging and growing number of UN and international partners
“It is not very usual to have this mix of partnership,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. “But it is important because the challenge is so big that no country can do it alone. We want to make sure that those who have nothing have some basic services. We want to make sure that those who have basic services will get better ones,” he said.
Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the World Food Programme, praised the GFCS as the basis for multiple partners to cooperate to support simultaneous activities.
“It is our collective efforts that are important. These depend on the reliability, accuracy and accessibility of climate information, particularly for people at risk in vulnerable areas,” said Ms Cousin. “There is no food security without water, or without addressing the issues of health, energy and agriculture. Working in our silos is no longer acceptable.”
Hanne Bjurstrom, Special Envoy for Climate, Ministry of Climate and Environment, Norway, said progress to date was very promising but more funding from more partners was necessary to retain the momentum and fulfil ambitions. “Investing in disaster risk and preparedness saves both lives and money,” said Ms Bjurstrom. “Climate services are recognized as important to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, based on science and relevant knowledge.”
The priority areas of the GFCS – agriculture and food security, water, health, disaster risk reduction and, most recently, energy, are all part of the Sustainable Devlopment Goals agreed by the United Nations in September 2015.
Fred Kossam, chief meteorologist in Malawi – which is hosting one of the flagship Norway-funded projects – said that there was now unprecedented demand for climate information from users who now realized the added value that this entails. “This year, for first time ever in Malawi, we were able to downscale the seasonal forecast into district level and we are able to do that thanks to the GFCS support. We are able to reach out to 850,000 farmers for the first time,” he said.
Nikhil Seth, Executive Director of UNITAR, stressed the need for more education and training for all actors in society to face the challenge of climate change and have to be part of the solution. UNITAR has developed an online tutorial as an introduction to how the GFCS works and so far 400 people have completed it, he said. “UNITAR is the bridge between knowledge and learning and those who lack it,” he said.
Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, Senior Director for Social, Urban, Rural Development and Resilience at the World Bank, said that an estimated 2.5 billion U.S. dollars was needed for improved hydrometeorological services. “This is not such a big amount considering the returns,” he said.
Garry Conille, Under Secretary-General of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said that Red Cross volunteers were a trusted source of information and so could be used to translate climate information into practical community-level advice. “The need for operationalizing the GFCS is critical and we at the IFRC could help mobilize volunteers quickly for this. The more the community understands the information that is being circulated and the solutions proposed, and trusts the systems, the more likely you are to have successful and sustainable outcomes.”