Guest Article #23

Climate information and services for decision-making

Convened in Geneva from 31 August to 4 September 2009 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and its international partners, the World Climate Conference-3 (WCC-3) has initiated the process to establish a Global Framework for Climate Services, to ensure that climate information and predictions are made available to decision-makers and to all sectors enduring the increasing impacts of climate variability and change. This historic decision was unanimously adopted at the opening of the WCC-3 High-level Segment, which followed three days of intense deliberations by multidisciplinary international experts. Present on the occasion were the Presidents and Heads of State of 12 countries and close to 80 Ministers, as well as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and 12 Executive Heads of UN Agencies and Programmes.

As the framework progressively becomes a full reality, WMO and the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) of its 188 Members will continue to monitor climate and to increasingly provide the most essential climate services.  Indeed, climate services for a number of sectors already exist in different parts of the world; for example, Regional Climate Outlook Forums provide today seasonal forecasts to assist various socio-economic sectors in adopting the most appropriate, timely and informed decisions. These Outlook Forums contribute to link seasonal forecast developers with decision-makers responsible for planning, including the agriculture sector, thereby making an essential contribution to food security. Moreover, for the health sector, the Forums currently provide critical precipitation and temperature information to better prepare communities for potential malaria outbreaks, a vector-borne disease highly linked to climate conditions.

Unfortunately, these vital climate services are not yet systematically in place for all regions, so the future Global Framework for Climate Services will contribute to mainstream and to make them available to all sectors. Some of the key requisites to be developed during the implementation period include the strengthening and sustainability of countries' observational and research capabilities, as well as enhanced capacity-building for developing countries and improved interaction between climate information providers and the ultimate users.

While full implementation of this vital framework will demand the collaborative action of the United Nations System delivering as One, as well as of other organizations, research institutions, academia and the media, a number of building blocks for this cooperation were readily visible at the World Climate Conference-3, which had an unprecedented attendance of more than 2500 decision-makers and experts. The scientific and social experts, in particular, identified numerous gaps to be bridged and began the key process of connecting climate information providers with the end-users.

Based on the mandate received from Governments through the Conference High-level Declaration, WMO will convene within four months an intergovernmental meeting of WMO Members to approve the terms of reference for a task force of high-level, independent advisors and to endorse its composition. Then, within 12 months and following ample consultations, the taskforce will produce a report with the detailed Framework implementation process, which will be submitted to the sixteenth World Meteorological Congress (Geneva, May 2011).

While WCC-3 outcomes will provide key input to the UNFCCC negotiation process, which will converge in Copenhagen next December at the fifteenth session of the Conference of Parties (COP 15), it should however be stressed that the Global Framework for Climate Services outreach will extend even beyond this important meeting, in particular by implementing practical solutions to effectively address the inevitable impacts of climate variability and change on all countries, regardless of the precise agreement that they ultimately agree to adopt in order to reduce, as they indeed must, their respective greenhouse gas emissions.