The World Meteorological Organisation’s (WMO) Regional Association for Asia has thrown its weight behind the United Nations initiative to ensure Early Warnings for All in the world’s most disaster-prone region, which is home to more than half of the global population.
Ministers, heads of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services from 24 countries and key regional partners issued a high-level declaration with strong recommendations to advance the four key Multi-Hazard Early Warning System (MHEWS) pillars on risk knowledge and management; observations and forecasting; dissemination and communication; and preparedness and response.
The declaration states that “Early warning systems are a proven effective, and feasible tool for climate adaptation measure that save lives and are shown to provide nearly a tenfold return on investment,” and highlights the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report on Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, which recognises early warning systems, climate services and disaster risk management activities as key cross-cutting adaptation options.
Early warning systems deliver multiple socioeconomic benefits to society and are key in shaping weather- and climate resilience which underpins the attainment of many Sustainable Development Goals, according to the declaration.
“Climate change impacts are wreaking an ever-increasing human, financial and environmental toll, worsening food security and poverty and holding back sustainable development in Asia,” said Dr Abdulla Ahmed Al Mandous, President of WMO Regional Association for Asia.
In 2021 alone, weather and climate related hazards caused damage of US$ 35.6 billion, affecting nearly 50 million people in Asia. Floods were the deadliest, accounting for 75% of disaster events in the region.
Dr Al Mandous said the one-day high-level event on the “United Nation’s Early Warnings for All initiative” will give us a great opportunity to brief our key policy and decision makers on the high payoff of investments in weather and climate services and solutions in terms of lives saved, property protected, and economic gains achieved.”
WMO and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction are co-leading the Early Warnings for All initiative to ensure that everyone on Earth is protected by early warnings in the next five years.
The Early Warnings for All Executive Action Plan was launched by UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the climate change conference, COP27, in Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt. It is expected to gain strong support at COP28, which will be hosted by the United Arab Emirates, said Prof. Taalas who has met with COP28 representatives whilst in the UAE. National and regional rollouts of the initiative are key to its success, he said.
“You are at the front lines of the climate crisis and understand better than anyone what is needed to close early warning coverage gaps, eliminate the ‘last mile’ and ensure that all communities are equipped to take early action,” said Ms Mizutori.
As a starting point, national meteorological and hydrological services must work closely with disaster risk management counterparts to identify how early warning and early action can be strengthened, she said.
Ms Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia-Pacific (ESCAP), outlined three main pathways to success.
- Investments in early warnings systems need to be risk-informed and prioritize known and emerging hotspots.
- Strong cooperation mechanisms must provide economies of scale and ensure that no one is left behind.
- We need to finance transformative adaptation.
“The implementation of this ambitious plan will be a game changer that saves many lives and the livelihoods of some of the poorest people in the world’s most disaster-prone region of Asia and the Pacific,” she said.
Ms Rola Dashti, Under Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) said mechanisms such as the Arab Centre for Climate Change Policies would develop the capacities of Arab climate and meteorological services for enhanced climate resilience.
The Arabian Peninsula is warming at an unprecedented rate and large parts of the region are forecast to experience at least 3 months of temperatures above 35 °C, the threshold against which the human body can no longer cool itself, she said.
“Under these circumstances, we cannot stand still. Together, we must develop multi-hazard early warning systems to support people and the Planet.”