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Shoring up early warning systems for Asia-Pacific SIDS

Songdo,
Five island countries in the Asia-Pacific region are teaming up with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to boost their resilience to weather events.

WMO is working with the governments and civil society partners in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste and Vanuatu to develop a potential Green Climate Fund (GCF) project that aims to markedly improve the countries’ Early Warning Systems (EWSs).

This is in response to hydro and meteorological hazards that climate change is making more extreme, difficult to forecast and, for these and other Small Island Developing States (SIDS), posing an existential threat.

To ensure this regional project meets the unique needs of each country as well as the funding requirements of GCF, WMO has received a grant of USD 535 000 to strengthen this project concept and advance its preparation into an innovative and high-impact financing proposal. The grant is from the Fund’s Project Preparation Facility (PPF), an instrument that assists GCF Accredited Entities conduct feasibility studies, stakeholder consultations and other essential steps in designing innovative high-quality projects.

The Project Preparation Facility assistance for Enhancing EWSs to build greater resilience to hydro and meteorological hazards in Pacific SIDS will support WMO and the target countries to work together to advance a project proposal that will achieve long-term climate and development impact.

Project preparation activities include a stocktaking of EWSs in the five countries and the broader region, consultations to engage stakeholders and garner country ownership, and feasibility studies to ensure the proposed investments are socially, technically, economically and environmentally sound, among others.

As the UN’s leading technical agency on weather and climate, WMO will use its track record in working with national meteorological and hydrological services on EWSs to support the five SIDS in strengthening how they prepare for such events before they occur.

An early warning system is a multi-pronged approach designed to better monitor and forecast hydro-meteorological hazards and put in place more effective emergency preparedness. Effective EWSs contain four components that detect, monitor and forecast hazards; analyse related risks; disseminate timely warnings; and activate emergency response plans.

Countries covered by WMO’s proposed project are highly exposed and vulnerable to extreme weather hazard, such as tropical cyclones, storm surges and coastal inundation. According to the World Risk Report 2016, Fiji and Vanuatu are among the top 15 countries with the highest vulnerability to natural hazards worldwide.

“This Project Preparation Facility is essential in designing a project-led initiative, owned and sustained by countries, that achieves real climate and development impact in these five highly vulnerable islands,” said Mary Power, Director of WMO’s Development and Regional Activities Department. “Beyond this, it represents a programming instrument through which WMO, together with its member countries and partners, can define effective strategies for building resilience to hydro-meteorological and climate related hazards.”

Melchior Mataki, a high-level environmental official with the Solomon Islands, said his country supports this initiative because of the obvious need for enhanced early warning capacity within its meteorological service for hydro-meteorological hazards. “This initiative will also add value to our ongoing efforts to cope with the impacts of climate change through weather-related extremes,” said Mr Mataki, who is Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology – a GCF National Designated Authority (NDA).

Vanuatu representative Jesse Benjamin said his Pacific island nation is ranked as having one of the highest vulnerabilities to natural hazards worldwide, leading to the “need for an effective EWS to detect, monitor and forecast hazards is paramount.”

“We are pleased GCF has approved the grant for WMO to use in supporting Vanuatu and the other four island countries to advance the project concept into a bankable GCF project,” said Mr Benjamin, who is Director General of Vanuatu’s Ministry of Climate Change, a GCF NDA.

Commenting from Timor-Leste’s perspective, the Director of that country’s National Directorate for Climate Change, Augusto M. Pinto, said: “This project is important for us because in many consultation meetings with stakeholders, early warning systems are mentioned as a main priority, especially with climate change induced hazards such as prolonged floods and droughts as well as storms.”

Mr Pinto, whose office is Timor-Leste’s NDA to GCF, added that early warning to farmers is crucial to reduce loss and damage to crops. “We believe that this project will support the government to solve some of the disaster risk issues caused by climate change,” he said.

The grant to WMO is the third such PPF grant awarded by GCF, and the second in 2017. The first PPF award was provided to the Ministry of Natural Resources of Rwanda (MINIRENA) in 2016.