Efforts to establish a global early warning weather system by 2027 are growing ahead of the crucial Cop28 climate summit in Dubai.
The UN-led $3.1 billion plan could help predict extreme weather and hand a vital lifeline to those in developing countries most at risk of climate-related disasters.
Unveiled at Cop27 in Egypt last year, efforts are now building to implement the system with further updates expected at the UN climate talks at Expo City Dubai from November 30 until December 12.
“We got the blessing in Sharm El Sheikh,” Prof Petteri Taalas, Secretary General of the World Meteorological Association (WMO) told The National on Monday.
“Now we go to the implementation phase at Cop28 here in Dubai. We expect to get support for practical implementation and financial resources.”
Prof Taalas, speaking on the sidelines of a regional WMO conference in Abu Dhabi, said it had secured funding to start the work but “we need more money” to deliver the project by 2027.
The WMO has 193 member states and territories and Prof Taalas said about half of its members still do not have these systems in place. An early warning system could be used to assess developing weather events from storms to rain and allow forecasters to issue detailed predictions. It could also be used to chart climate scenarios for the years ahead and yield insights on long-term perspectives for rainfall, temperature and tropical storms.
“But we are concentrating on the week-to-month scale,” said Prof Taalas.
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The UN has previously reported that people in South Asia, Africa and South and Central America, along with those living in small island states, are up to 15 times more likely to die from climate disasters. This means that many countries who have not contributed in a major way to the climate crisis are also among the least protected.
Prof Taalas said the most advanced systems can also assess the impact of extreme weather and how they affect a country’s energy, transport and infrastructure sectors, and even the impact on public safety. But they need developed observation networks, quality data and advanced communications to work.
Weather warning systems fall under the adaptation strand of methods to tackle climate change. Adaptation means dealing with permanent changes caused by a warming climate, such as building sea walls or using heat tolerant crops. Mitigation — cutting warming emissions — is the other major strand.
A third element — loss and damage — was also agreed at Cop27. Loss and damage is to provide financial support to developing countries hit by climate change — separate from adaptation — but it has yet to be determined who pays into this.
Securing finance for adaptation has also been challenging. Developed countries have pledged to deliver $100 billion a year in climate finance to developing countries — funds separate to loss and damage — but this target has yet to be met.
“This is an important part of adaptation,” said Prof Taalas, referring to the warning system, whereby relatively small amounts of money can prevent significant amounts of damage. “And where value for money is highest,” he added.
All these strands will be discussed at Cop28, setting the scene for about two weeks of tough negotiations. “There needs to be a decision on loss and damage at Cop28 and this is a very good way to avoid these losses,” he said.
The UN, governments and partners have pledged to work together and further updates are expected at Cop28.
The WMO conference in Abu Dhabi, meanwhile, runs until Thursday. Hosted by the UAE National Centre of Meteorology, the conference encompasses the WMO presence in Asia and will examine climate change, advanced weather predictions and strengthening forecasting, among other topics.