Climate crisis demands change in forecasting – WMO

The increasing risks posed by climate change demand a move from warning to action according to a new report.

the UN World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), has issued the State of Climate Services 2020 Report: Move from Early Warnings to Early Action, that concludes there is now an urgent the need to switch to impact-based forecasting – an evolution from “what the weather will be” to “what the weather will do” so that people and businesses can act early.

It comes as UN Secretary General, António Guterres, (pic) urged the Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action to show greater leadership on the issue, including the end to coal and fossil fuel investments. He also called on the world’s financial regulators to better track financial institution’s carbon footprints, including their investments.

In launching the report Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of WMO said lives were at stake if action wasn’t taken.

“Early warning systems constitute a prerequisite for effective disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation,” he said. “Being prepared and able to react at the right time, in the right place, can save many lives and protect the livelihoods of communities everywhere.”

He also highlighted that while it could take years to recover from the human and economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial to remember that climate change will continue to pose an on-going and increasing threat to human lives, ecosystems, economies and societies for centuries to come.

“Recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity to move forward along a more sustainable path towards resilience and adaptation in the light of anthropogenic climate change,” added Mr. Taalas.

Globally over the past 50 years, some 11,000 disasters, attributed to weather, climate and water-related hazards, claimed over 2 million lives and cost the world economy $3.6 trillion, according to WMO.

In 2018 alone, storms, floods, droughts and wildfires left some 108 million people in need of international humanitarian assistance. By 2030, this number could increase by almost 50 per cent at a cost of around $20 billion a year.

In spite of the alarming figures, one in three people are still not adequately covered by early warning systems, with communities in Africa, least developed countries and small island developing States most affected, the UN agency added, citing challenges such as weak dissemination of early warning, inadequate observing networks, and insufficient capacity to translate early warning into early action.

The report outlines six key recommendations to improve the implementation and effectiveness of early warning systems, globally:

  • Investing to fill the early warning systems capacity gaps, particularly in African least developed countries and small island developing States.
  • Focusing investment on turning early warning information into early action.
  • Ensuring sustainable financing of the global observing system that underpins early warnings.
  • Tracking finance flows to improve understanding of where these resources are being allocated in relation to early warning systems implementation needs and what impact this is having.
  • Developing more consistency in monitoring and evaluation to better determine early warning systems effectiveness; and
  • Filling data gaps, particularly in small island developing States.

Addressing the fourth Ministerial Meeting of the Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action, via a video message, Secretary-General António Guterres urged greater leadership and vision.

“Your recovery plans will determine the course of the next 30 years”, he said. “We need speed, scale, and decisive leadership. I count on this coalition to rise to the challenge.”

The meeting brought together top officials from around the world to discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on fiscal policies related to climate change.

The Secretary-General called on the ministers to serve as models and advocates for a green recovery, noting the need for governments to align COVID recovery and stimulus plans with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

He urged finance ministers to take steps to put pressure in those who were contributing to climate change, including a refusal to invest in firms that negatively impact the planet.

“That means investing in green and decent jobs. Do not bail out polluting industries. End fossil-fuel subsidies. And take climate risks into account in all financial and policy decisions”, said Mr. Guterres.

The UN chief also called for sharp and permanent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

“Coal should not be part of any recovery plans”, he stressed.

Mr. Guterres told finance ministers to commit to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, and to submit more ambitious nationally determined contributions before the 26th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26), to be held in Glasgow in November 2021, after being postponed this year due to the pandemic.

“We need all of you, through your NDCs and Net Zero plans, to send a clear and unambiguous signal to markets that the decarbonisation of the global economy is inevitable”, he added, referring to the Nationally Determined Contributions – what each country will do to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Mr. Guterres urged the ministers, together with central banks and financial regulators to ensure that every financial decision takes climate risks and opportunities into account.

This includes improving the quality and quantity of climate-related financial disclosures, ensuring that the financial sector can measure and manage climate-related financial risks and creating approaches and frameworks for measuring portfolio alignment with the transition to net zero, he explained.

Noting their important role in national, regional and multilateral development finance institutions as well as in shaping their strategic direction, Mr. Guterres called on the finance ministers to use their “voice and voting power” to ensure that by COP26, these institutions agree to align their policies, portfolios and pipelines with the 1.5-degree goal of the Paris Agreement.

“This will mean an end to new coal power plants and a phasing out of fossil fuel investments; more ambitious climate finance goals and targets; increased support for adaptation and resilience for the most vulnerable; and rapidly scaled up investments in renewable energy,” added Mr. Guterres.