Climate Ambition summit increases commitment to Early Warnings for All

22 September 2023

The Climate Ambition Summit has increased political and financial commitment to the Secretary-General’s US$3.1 billion initiative to ensure that everyone on Earth is protected by life-saving early warning systems in the face of increasingly more extreme and dangerous weather.

New funding announcements and declarations of support were made during high level events at the UN General Assembly – coinciding with practical action to rollout the Early Warnings for All initiative on the ground. The catastrophic flooding in Libya highlighted the urgency of end-to-end early warnings.

In a speech at the summit, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that government should push the global financial system towards supporting climate action.

“All parties must operationalize the Loss and Damage Fund at COP28. Developed countries must meet the $100 billion commitment, replenish the Green Climate Fund, and double adaptation funding. And everyone must be covered by an early warning system by 2027 – by implementing the Action Plan we launched last year,” he said.

Early warnings work

A high-level side-event co-sponsored by WMO showcased how early warnings work and are a proven effective method for helping people adapt to climate change. For example, warning of a coming storm or heatwave can significantly reduce damage and investing just $800 million on such systems in developing countries would avoid losses of $3-16 billion per year.

A large room with many people sitting at desks.
Leaders of states, business and civil society gathered in New York for the Climate Ambition Summit hosted by the UN Secretary-General.
UN News/Anton Upensky

“The initiative has now transitioned from ‘what’ to ‘how’ as country level roll-out plans are developed, supported by heightened ambition and creative actions from the financial, private, science and technology, and civil society sectors,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.

Only half of countries worldwide report being equipped with the capacity to alert their citizens about impending hazardous weather conditions. Those with limited early warning coverage have disaster mortality eight times higher than those with substantial to comprehensive coverage.

But as the needs for Early Warnings for All increase, so does the determination to succeed.

“I am confident that we can do it. We have been astounded by the willingness to coordinate. Early Warnings for All is an example of how we can come together to deliver a vital global public good. It is unacceptable that not everyone is covered by early warnings. Let's get this done,” said Selwin Hart, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Climate Action.

Funding announcements

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) announced it would use project preparation funding of US$1.3 million from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to develop a US$157 million GCF project together with the EW4All pillar leads, governments and other partners.

A new Water at the Heart collaboration was also launched, combining local knowledge and global technology to help communities understand and act on the water-related risks they face - before they become disasters. The programme is focused on supporting the countries of Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda, which make up the Nile River basin. The Government of the Netherlands has committed 52 million Swiss Francs (55 million euros) to the five-year initiative.  

Multilateral Development Banks (MDB’s) are coalescing around Early Warnings for All.

“We, the Multilateral Development Banks, welcome the United Nations Secretary-General’s Early Warnings for All (EW4All) initiative, which aims to ensure that early warning systems protect everyone by 2027,” said the joint declaration.

“We recognize that with climate change rapidly leading to more frequent extreme weather events, this initiative will protect lives, livelihoods, and the environment, helping countries and people adapt to the changing climate,” it said.

“Building on our long history of investing in and supporting countries to modernize early warning systems, often in partnership with the EW4All lead agencies, we further commit to work together in support of the EW4All initiative in order to enhance coordination, improve efficiency and scale up action to achieve this shared ambition, in line with countries’ development plans and requests,” said the statement.

It was endorsed by the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, African Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank, Caribbean Development Bank, European Investment Bank, the Council of European Development Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Multilateral Development Banks have a crucial role to play in injecting much-needed funding to implement the initiative worldwide. They have a long history in supporting early warning systems and are expected play a key role as investors, implementers and financiers to achieve the ambitious goal. This includes enhancing coordination, improving efficiency and scaling up action in line with countries’ development plans and requests.

Several Multilateral Development Banks are implementing entities of the Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF), which supports countries in closing the major basic weather and climate data gaps. WMO is one of the co-creators of SOFF.

Inclusivity and partnerships

The high-level side event unpacked how progress is being made in delivering Early Warnings for All, highlighting advancements and innovations in financing early warnings systems and early action and country-level implementation. Inclusivity and partnerships were highlighted as being critical to the success of Early Warnings for All, as speakers from science and academia, local communities, practitioners and the International Disability Alliance took the floor.

Recognizing the vulnerability of small Islands, the event was co-sponsored by the Alliance for Small Island States (AOSIS).  Hon. Mr Schuster, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Samoa, as chair of AOSIS, hosted and opened the event.

Prof. Taalas, Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and Head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and Jagan Chapagain, Secretary-General of the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies, all took the floor.

Other speakers included the Prime Ministers of the Caribbean states of Aruba and Saint Maarten.

Khadeeja Naseem, Minister of State for Environment, Climate Change and Technology of the Maldives welcomed the establishment of SOFF. Maldives is among the first countries that received SOFF support. Closing the country’s basic weather and climate data gaps will create both global and local benefits: Globally, Maldives will contribute to fill important data gaps of the Global Basic Observing Network (GBON) in the Indian Ocean. Locally, SOFF will lead to better local forecasts and create the foundation for effective early warnings, the most effective way to adapt to the rapidly changing climate. 

The Principality of Monaco is the latest country to contribute financially to the Early Warnings for All goal through the Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems (CREWS) initiative, with a contribution of US$ 500,000. According to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Isabelle Berro Amadeï “The recent dramatic events have made it clear that deploying early warning systems is more imperative than ever to strengthen communities’ climate resilience. Monaco’s contribution to the CREWS Initiative is a demonstration of its commitment to supporting concrete and effective climate action in the most vulnerable countries.”

Leading representatives of funding agencies and donor governments took part as well as private sector actors.

The meetings at the General Assembly in New York coincided with national roll-out plans in vulnerable countries. Nepal held a two-day national consultation on 21 and 22 November.

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