WMO Executive Council closes on key action-driven decisions

17 June 2024

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Executive Council has approved a detailed road map to speed up and scale up efforts to ensure that life-saving early warnings cover everyone on the planet. 

The seventy-eighth session of the Executive Council (EC78) took place in Geneva from 10 to 14 June 2024. In addition to an Early Warnings for All (EW4All) road map, it adopted an implementation plan for a Global Greenhouse Gas Watch and scaled up action on the cryosphere (ice and snow) in the face of dramatic changes

The council agreed to a raft of other resolutions to strengthen Earth system observations, predictions and information systems . It adopted resolutions on climate monitoring and climate services, and research and innovation. It also set the scene for more intense collaboration with the United Nations system, and to support humanitarian action through initiatives such as the WMO Coordination Mechanism (WCM) supported by the Weather 4 UN project. 

A Road Map for Early Warnings

One of the highlights of this Executive Council was the adoption of a Road Map for the Early Warnings for All initiative which outlines the vision and actions to enhance the delivery and use of multi-hazard early warning systems. It covers the period from 2024-2027 with detailed dates, deliverables and defined responsibilities. This is in line with the target date set by United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres.

“Strong early warning systems require stronger political and policy support from the international community and governments, in addition to significant investment in infrastructure, technology, and training. We must all champion the EW4All Initiative globally, advocating for increased investment and political will”, said Abdulla Al Mandous, President of the WMO.

“People’s lives and people’s safety are our top priority. Every single forecast that is issued has a human dimension. Every life we save has a human face, a family, a future”, said WMO Secretary-General Celeste Saulo.

“It makes economic sense. Early warning systems provide a ninefold return on investment. They are the low-hanging fruit of climate adaptation. If we don’t invest, the cost of inaction will be much higher than the cost of action,” she said.

Early warning systems have helped decrease the number of deaths and have reduced losses and damages resulting from hazardous weather, water, or climate events. They provide a nearly tenfold return on investment. 

But major gaps still exist, especially in small island developing states and least developed countries. Some 70% of all deaths from climate-related disasters have occurred in the 46 poorest countries over the past 50 years.

The road map seeks to leverage the entire WMO network and enhance the capabilities of its NMHSs to protect lives and livelihoods. WMO Members have already endorsed the structure underpinning the priority activities, with defined roles and responsibilities.

The road map defines priority hazards, including flash floods and riverine floods; tropical cyclones and extra-tropical storms, heatwaves, cold waves, thunderstorms, drought, coastal inundation, storm surge and cryosphere-related hazards such as glacial lake outflows. It also cites environmental hazards like wildfires, sand and dust storms, tsunamis, landslides and volcanic activity. The challenges are huge, but the benefits even bigger. 

The Early Warnings for All Initiative was launched in an initial set of countries and is now being expanded to other countries to meet the demand and need. The roadmap will guide WMO as it seeks to scale up and accelerate actions. 

Pillar 2 of Early Warnings for All

The Early Warnings for All initiative is co-led by WMO and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), with support from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and other partners.

WMO is responsible for Pillar 2 on detection, observation, monitoring, analysis and forecasting. The road map is therefore targeted at this specific pillar. It aims to close critical gaps, including in the basic observing network, in satellite and data products, and in the WMO Integrated Processing and Prediction System.

Only 50% of countries worldwide report having adequate multi-hazard early warning systems, and there are big gaps in observations across Africa, parts of the Pacific and West of Latin America. 

Of the 30 countries initially selected to implement Early Warnings for All coordinated assistance, half of the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHS) currently operate with basic monitoring and forecasting capacity and close to a quarter with less-than-basic capacity.

An EW4All Dashboard was launched at COP28, providing transparent and continual monitoring of progress on the initiative. 

A group of seven children stands outdoors on a dirt path, smiling at the camera. Two of the children are holding goats. The sky is partly cloudy in the background.

A Youth Action Plan for WMO

The Executive Council enthusiastically adopted a resolution aimed at fostering youth engagement in the hydrometeorological community. A Youth Action Plan will be developed, and WMO will therefore align with other 55 entities of the United Nations implementing a UN Youth Strategy. “We need to give Youth the power to take action, it is not just about listening, but giving them the opportunity to take action”, said Secretary-General Celeste Saulo. “Youth are our present and our future”, she added. “Youth are able to jump out of the box”, stressed Johan Stander, Director of WMO Services Department. 

IMO Prize winners

Executive Council honored Prof. Tim Palmer as the 68th IMO Prize winner and nominated Prof. Gerhard Adrian as the 69th IMO Prize winner. It also adopted several resolutions to strengthen internal oversight, financial management and transparency.

On the last day, the theme for the World Meteorological Day 2025 was adopted: “Closing the Early Warning Gap Together”. The date of the Extraordinary session of Congress in 2025 was also set: it will take place 20-24 October 2025 in Geneva.