A Panel on Socioeconomic Benefits to support Early Warnings for All

22 June 2023

Earlier this month, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) held the first meeting of its Panel on Socioeconomic Benefits (PSB). The PSB is working to strengthen efforts to explain the advantages of early warning systems, to support the United Nations Secretary General’s Early Warnings for All initiative.

Representatives from UN Regional Commissions, Development agencies, academia, civil society, private sector, and the WMO community were represented. Extreme weather, climate and water-related events caused 11 778 reported disasters between 1970 and 2021, according to a new figure from WMO, with just over 2 million deaths and US$ 4.3 trillion in economic losses. In his opening remarks, the Secretary-General of WMO, Professor Petteri Taalas, highlighted the vulnerability of Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States to such impacts. “The informed use of meteorological, climatological, hydrological, and related information can, however, deliver vast benefits to society, and early warnings systems represent a powerful way to reduce exposure to hazards, increase resiliency and adapt to climate change”, he added. 

While climate adaption is a complex and broad issue making it challenging to tackle, early warning systems represents “one of a handful of practical topics that help make climate adaptation concrete”, according to Mr Eric White, the Head of Climate Adaptation at the World Economic Forum. Hydromet disasters widen inequalities in outcomes and opportunities, and to this end the Asia-Pacific region “seeks to reduce annual losses due to hydromet disasters by over 115 billion USD”, said the Chairperson of the Panel on Socioeconomic Benefits, Dr Sanjay Srivastava, Chief of Disaster Risk Reduction, at the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP). 

The Panel on Socioeconomic benefits has been established by the WMO to contribute to the planning and implementation of its key objectives and dedicated activities aimed at elucidating economic and societal costs of extreme events as well as benefits from investments into observational infrastructures, early warning and services to the public and governments. Dr Arlene Laing, the Coordinating Director of the Caribbean Meteorological Organization and Permanent Representative of the British Caribbean Territories with WMO, emphasized that a systematic approach to valuing weather, climate and water services is lacking, and consequently “expressions of appreciation have not always translated into adequate budget allocations for the National Meteorological Services.” 


Only 18% of countries assessing SEB 

Analysis tools and approaches to socioeconomic benefit (SEB) assessment have been marked repeatedly as an important tool to form the basis for further development and improvement of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services. However, only 18% of the 193 WMO Members reported conducting socioeconomic benefit assessments in the last ten years, as highlighted by Dr Victoria Alexeeva, Senior Economic and Societal Impact Officer of the Cabinet Office of the Secretary-General at the WMO. An assessment, which is ongoing, revealed that only 2 out of 27 Early Warnings for All initial group of countries surveyed reported to have undertaken a SEB assessment as of June 2023. 

The Panel recognized the complexity of the topic of socioeconomic benefit assessments and the challenge at hand in seeking to align efforts to inform on the benefits of hydromet services in general and early warning systems in particular. To this end, the Panel will support the development of a WMO SEB Toolbox and a SEB Toolbox Training Package which aim at strengthening capacity of the WMO Members in socioeconomic benefit assessment through supervision of user-friendly training material development and training delivery to both NMHSs staff and other interested user communities. Moving forward, the need to engage in multistakeholder collaboration and to adopt an approach that considers both the social and economic dimensions of such assessments was emphasized.  

The PSB comprises of 14 members from UN Regional Commissions (UNESCAP, UNECA, UNECLAC), Development Agencies (World Bank, Green Climate Fund), Academia (Brown University, Complutense University of Madrid, University of Oulu), Civil Society and Private Sector (WEF), and the WMO Community (INFCOM, SERCOM, RB, CDP, PRs). By the end of 2023, the Panel aims to develop an Action Plan to advance the valuation of weather, climate, and water services.