Statement held at the Second meeting of the Intergovernmental Board on Climate Services (IBCS) 10. - 13. November 2014
About a week ago, on a Norwegian website, I saw the weather forecast for 2050. The forecast was exactly like any normal weather prognosis, just with one notable difference – the weather. 2050 looks quite grim; heavy rains, long-lasting heat waves and flooded coastal cities. And what really was a punch in the stomach for Norwegians was –no more white Christmas. Many of you are probably already familiar with the 2050 weather forecast campaign, a series of fictional reports showing the realistic effects of climate change (based on the latest figures from the IPCC). I was pleased to note that the campaign was a WMO initiative and that there are plenty of local versions. The campaign, which aims to sensitise the public and spur action, has been a social media hit in Norway and hopefully the same has been the case in other countries. WMO deserves to be praised for this campaign. In my opinion, this is an excellent example of how it should be done. The campaign clearly visualizes what climate change is about, but it also excellently demonstrates the necessity and importance of climate services.
The future scenarios depicted are dramatic, and yet we are already facing substantial challenges at present with extreme weather conditions, such as erratic rains, sustained droughts and heavy storms. We can still hope for a white Christmas in Norway, but just two weeks ago we again experienced serious flooding in some parts of the country.
As we are aware, people living in poverty, who have contributed the least to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions, are still the ones most affected by climate change. They will be hardest hit in 2050, –that is the unfairness of climate change that demands our attention and calls for our response.
Nationally Norway has invested considerably in order to improve climate services, but we are also trying to do our share internationally. Norway’s contribution to the GFCS supports the improvement of forecasting of severe weather events that could cause significant loss of life and property in Africa, and the development and dissemination of early warning systems.
In addition, we are funding a three-year programme on climate services and adaptation. The programme focuses on food security, nutrition, health and disaster risk reduction in some African countries. The objective is to ensure that weather and climate information is translated into relevant and user-friendly climate services, and that it reaches the populations who need them most.
I started with the future, then moved on to the present. Now let me take a look back. Over five years ago the World Climate Conference launched the GFCS. Since then we have taken important steps, but maybe not at the pace we would have liked.
Last year the first IBCS took place, and we believe we now have a solid foundation for producing, improving and disseminating climate services to users all over the world. Taking the time to build a solid foundation was necessary, but it does not solve the challenges for climate services; it is just an instrument with little value if it is not used in the right way.
On the practical side, we would like the secretariat to assist us better in preparing our meetings, for example, we would like to have an annotated agenda. We should also consider possibilities for making our meetings more efficient.
On the substance, we believe that our work should have a clear goal-oriented direction with a stronger emphasis on concrete actions. There is no doubt that much work remains, but we must make sure that we are going in the right direction and with the right pace.
We must ask ourselves some questions: Are we doing enough to ensure that climate services get to those who need them the most? Have we been able to reach out to decision-makers so that they have the information in order to make climate-smart decisions? Are we contributing to reduce vulnerability to climate-related hazards quickly enough?
These are important questions to answer, because we know that there will be rougher weather in the future and we know that we all carry a responsibility in this respect.
Let me give one example of what we would like to prioritize; The High Level Panel on GFCS identified huge gaps in hydromet services and capacity in poor and vulnerable countries. We believe we therefore should prioritise hydromet services. Hydromet services are a crucial key to preparedness and reducing vulnerability, and are therefore in line with the priorities related to DRR, health, water management and agriculture. The challenge is that hydromet services require major investments in observation at national level, research, communications, technology and infrastructure such as computer processing capacity; hence, clear priorities are necessary to modernize the sector.
Secondly, we should continue to strengthen meteorological institutions and services in the countries, which need these the most so that they over time can achieve national trustworthiness.
Rapidly growing demand for weather, climate and hydrological services presents a challenge for the national meteorological offices. The responsibility is a tall order that require strong institutions considering that the reliability, quality and value of climate services depends on them. The order must be viable for all, also developing countries. This fundamental part needs to be in place in order to reach the five overarching goals of the framework.
If we lift our outlook from the local to the international level, we believe climate services must be communicated as much more than just a matter of meteorology; climate services serves a crucial role in ensuring greater food and water security, reducing disaster risk, and avoiding human and economic loss.
The expensiveness of not investing in climate services should be a key message. A dollar invested in DRR can save 2 to 10 dollars in disaster response and recovery costs. One of the floods in Norway last year cost us over 148 million US dollars. Just one of them. I would therefore argue that few, if any, can afford not to invest in climate services.
In light of this, I would believe there is an urgent need for funding, especially with regard to filling the gaps in the least developed countries.
We encourage all relevant organisations and institutions to contribute in their areas and by their means, in this worldwide joint effort of making the GFCS a success. Cooperation is key for the success of the GFCS in order to promote aid effectiveness and coherence.
We need to work across disciplines, across UN agencies and organisations, across borders and across economic and social layers. The fishermen on the lake and the farmer in the field should talk to the city planner and the humanitarian aid organisation. And perhaps most importantly, all of them need to communicate with you.
We need to establish more partnerships and we need more commitment and attention. To this end, Norway has initiated an informal Geneva group of Friends of Climate Services. At the last meeting of this group, we discussed the value and possibility of organising an event to sensitise the Geneva community to the promise of climate services.
Let me now go back to the future. 2050 would be quite depressing if we were not aware of what we now do know; It is possible to prevent extreme weather events from turning into disasters, and even better - the most serious impacts of climate change and variability can be avoided, if preparedness is in place and the country’s authorities and population are warned in reasonable time. However, all this requires that we start preparing for ‘a wilder future’.
The GFCS is the tool that we must use in order to deliver concrete results in this area. Norway stands ready to contribute in the process ahead; - as we hope all of you will do, too.