Countries on frontline of climate change expand early warning protection but progress nowhere near enough

Source(s): United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
African woman in long suit standing by the shore and looking out over the sea in Keta Ghana, West Africa.
Gerhard Pettersson/Shutterstock

DUBAI, 3 December 2023 - More lives are being protected from extreme weather and dangerous climate change impacts but there is a long way to go. Half of countries globally still do not have adequate multi-hazard early warning systems.

A new report from the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) finds that Africa has doubled the quality of early warning systems coverage but still falls below the global average. Less than half of the Least Developed Countries and only 40% of small island developing States have a multi-hazard early warning system. In the Arab States, risk knowledge to underpin early warning systems was found to be particularly low.

The report, the 2023 Global Status of Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems, analyses the latest data one year into the Early Warnings for All Initiative which aims to cover everyone everywhere by 2027.

It was launched at COP28 by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres at a high-level event attended by ministers and stakeholders. Its findings reveal that 101 countries have reported having an early warning system, an increase of six countries compared to last year, and representing a doubling of coverage since 2015.

“What we are delivering under the Early Warnings for All initiative can protect and save vulnerable communities from the worst impacts. This is an ambitious goal – but it is also achievable,” said António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations

The Secretary General called to double the speed and scale of support in countries in 2024.

“For us to make it a reality we need all hands on deck rowing in the same direction – collaborating and cooperating in a way that we have not done before.”  

New funding will speed more rapid progress and build on the foundations already laid since the initiative was launched. The focus now is on scaling up support in more countries and securing the finance to deliver Early Warnings for All in the next four years.

Progress

Maldives, Laos and Ethiopia now have dedicated national action plans and coordination structures in place. Benin has strengthened communications to reach communities at greatest risk. Fiji’s flash flood warning has been strengthened to protect the entire population of nearly 1 million people, Mr Guterres said.

Over 400 million people in LDCs and SIDS now have access to better predictions and warnings for floods, drought, heat waves and tropical cyclones. Countries such as Papua New Guinea and Burkina Faso can now issue drought seasonal predictions for small-scale farmers, many of them women, thanks to the Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems Initiative (CREWS).

The Systematic Observation Financing Facility is moving swiftly to fill the gap in basic weather and climate data. Sixty countries are receiving initial support and more than 30 million dollars in Investment has just been approved this week.

Mr Guterres voiced encouragement at progress on finance, including new bilateral contributions and alignment with existing investments.

“All major multilateral development banks, the global climate funds and the key financing mechanisms have coalesced around the Early Warnings for All initiative. These commitments are essential and invaluable,” said Mr Guterres.

The WMO-UNDRR report found galvanised political commitment and leadership, with 30 countries leading on advancing early warnings and a regional plan in Africa to boost implementation.

“The progress is encouraging but we must not be complacent. With an 80% increase in the number of people affected by disasters since 2015 and half the world still lacking access to early warnings, it is imperative to take action now to save lives, livelihoods, and assets,” said Ms. Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and Head of UNDRR.

“We are making progress but we need to do more. Many countries in Africa, the Pacific and South America still have significant gaps in attaining the minimum number of meteorological observations required to drive forecasting. Early warnings are the low-hanging fruit of climate adaptation. They are not a luxury but a must,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.

Risk governance

The WMO-UNDRR report recommends investing in risk governance as a proven basis for enabling effective early warning systems. It found that nearly 95 per cent of the countries that reported having a multi-hazard early warning system, also reported the existence of a national disaster risk reduction strategy. Countries with more comprehensive strategies, integrating climate adaptation and disaster resilience, showed an even better coverage of early warning systems.

Enhanced data and harnessing technological opportunities are also highlighted as a key area for action. With 95 percent of the world’s population able to access a mobile broadband network, there are significant opportunities to leverage mobile networks and internet connectivity, for stronger hazard monitoring and faster communication of warnings.

The report also emphasised intensified efforts to ensure hard to reach communities have early warning systems reach everyone and that are based on local needs. The report notes the need to strengthen anticipatory action for better preparedness. Levels of community preparedness have improved with 250 million people evacuated each year globally since 2015 before a disaster strikes.

A new Early Warnings for All Dashboard launched today provides a holistic understanding of the current status of early warning systems to help channel investments to close the gap.

Background 

The Early Warnings For All Initiative (EW4All) was formally launched by the UN Secretary-General in November 2022 at the COP27 meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh.

The Initiative calls for the whole world to be covered by an early warning system by the end of 2027.

Early Warnings for All is co-led by WMO and UNDRR and supported by pillar leads ITU and IFRC. Implementing partners include FAO, OCHA, UNDP, UNEP, UNESCO, REAP, and WFP, among other partners.

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