Early warnings and greenhouse gas monitoring top WMO Executive Council agenda

10 June 2024

A detailed road map to provide early warnings against dangerous natural hazards for everyone on the planet and an implementation plan for a new Global Greenhouse Gas Watch initiative are top the agenda of the annual World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Executive Council

Key messages
  • Climate change and extreme weather increase need for science and services
  • Early Warnings for All Road Map charts way ahead
  • Record CO2 levels highlight need for Global Greenhouse Gas Watch
  • Cryosphere action should be scaled up

The Executive Council meeting from 10-14 June will consider a raft of other measures, including scaled up action on the cryosphere (ice and snow) in the face of rapid climate change; closing the gap in the global observing network; improving climate monitoring and climate services; and satellite and space weather programmes.

“We just had the hottest 12-month period on record and a recent WMO report makes it clear that the record-breaking warming path is likely to continue over the next five years. Alarmingly, a new US report shows that carbon dioxide is accumulating in the atmosphere faster than ever — accelerating on a steep rise to levels far above any experienced during human existence. We are heading in the wrong direction,” said WMO Secretary-General Celeste Saulo. “As the UN Secretary-General says, we are playing Russian roulette with our planet,” she said.

“Climate change impacts and more extreme weather are greatly increasing the need for strong National Meteorological and Hydrological Services. At the same time, rapid advances in satellite technology, supercomputing and Artificial Intelligence provide new and exciting possibilities to harness science for the benefit of society. We must seize the opportunities to meet the challenges,” said Celeste Saulo, who became WMO Secretary-General at the start of 2024.

“Every single day we are working to support the adaptation and mitigation agenda to support sustainable development," she said.

A large group of individuals in formal attire stands in several rows in front of a modern glass building, posing for a group photo.
Members of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Executive Council gather for the 78th session (EC-78) in Geneva, Switzerland, from 10 to 14 June 2024.

Early Warnings for All

The WMO Road Map for the Early Warnings for All initiative outlines the vision, objectives and actions to enhance the delivery and use of multi-hazard early warning systems for weather, climate, and water-related hazards. It covers the period from 2024-2027 with detailed dates and deliverables. This is in line with the target date set by United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres.

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.

Making Early Warnings For All a reality remains far from reach, with millions, especially in developing nations, lacking access to life-saving early warnings. 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,” said WMO President Abdulla Al Mandous.

“We must all champion Early Warnings For All globally, advocating for increased investment and political will. Together, we can turn Early Warnings for All into a reality, saving lives and building resilience in a changing climate,” he said in an opening address.

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 the pillar on detection, observation, monitoring, analysis and forecasting. 

This aims to close critical gaps among WMO Members and Territories, as illustrated by the following challenges: 

  • Only a third of WMO Members and Territories report having multi-hazard monitoring and forecasting system. 
  • Critical gaps in surface and upper air meteorological observations across Africa, parts of the Pacific and West of Latin America. 
  • 67 per cent of WMO Members report having warning and alerting services available 24/7. 
  • Of the 30 countries initially selected for 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.

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.

Executive Council will examine the strategic rollout plan consisting of two pivotal phases: the catalytic phase and the sustained action phase. During the catalytic phase, countries identify gaps and mobilize stakeholders to accelerate universal multi-hazard early warning system coverage through national road maps. This is followed by the sustained action phase, which focuses on collectively implementing road maps and enhancing capabilities.

Although 30 focus countries have been prioritized, the initiative is being expanded to other countries in order to meet the demand and need. The roadmap will guide WMO as it seeks to scale up and accelerate actions. 

To date, 22 countries have held their national EW4All workshops, demonstrating their commitment to fulfill the goal of universal MHEWS coverage by 2027. Fourteen more workshops are planned this year. 

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

The WMO Road Map has specific provisions on building capacity and resilience, based on an inclusive and people-centred approach. It emphasises the sovereignty of national authorities, whilst stressing the need for coordination, integration and alignment in order to pursue rapid action at unprecedented scale. Coherence, consistency, accountability and sustainability are paramount. It seeks to leverage technology and innovation such as Artificial Intelligence to accelerate progress.

A panel of five people is seated at a long table with nameplates, microphones, and documents in front of them during a conference. A screen above displays a live feed of the session.
From left to right: Dr M. Mohapatra, (3rd Vice-President), Mr D. Konate (1st Vice-President), Mr. T Asare (Assistant Secretary-General, WMO), Prof C. Saulo (Secretary-General, WMO), Dr A. A. Al Mandous (President, WMO)

Global Greenhouse Gas Watch

The Global Greenhouse Gas Watch (G3W)  aims to support WMO Members in mitigation actions undertaken to implement the Paris Agreement. It seeks to fill critical information gaps and provides an integrated, operational framework that brings under one roof all space-based and surface-based observing systems, as well as modelling and data assimilation capabilities in relation to greenhouse gas monitoring.

Initial focus will be on the three most important greenhouse gases influenced by human activities, namely carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. It takes into consideration both human and natural influences on the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The system will be built on the basis of the long-term efforts of WMO in coordination of greenhouse gas observations and research.

The need for improved monitoring to support mitigation is highlighted by a new report from scientists from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Scrips Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. 

Levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) measured at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory by NOAA’s Global Monitoring Laboratory surged to a seasonal peak of just under 427 parts per million (426.90 ppm) in May, when CO2 reaches its highest level in the Northern Hemisphere. That’s an increase of 2.9 ppm over May 2023, and the 5th-largest annual growth in NOAA’s 50-year record. 

When combined with 2023’s increase of 3.0 ppm, 2022 to 2024 has seen the largest two-year jump in the May peak in the NOAA record.

The WMO Infrastructure Commission (INFCOM) approved the Global Greenhouse Gas Watch Draft Implementation Plan at its session in April. This will now be discussed by Executive Council.

The draft Executive Council resolution recommends any greenhouse gas monitoring to be carried out with “full transparency,” in accordance with WMO’s fundamental policy for free and unrestricted international exchange of Earth system data.

Specifically, it aims at further strengthening collaboration and coordination with relevant UN agencies and other international partners engaged in greenhouse gas monitoring and modelling activities, mobilizing partner resources and ensuring equal access for all Members to WMO resources, including means to ensure global comparability of GHG monitoring data.

It stresses the need for engagement with stakeholders at international forums, such as the Conference of the Parties to UNFCCC (COP), to promote the uptake and use of the data and products generated by this infrastructure.

The resolution envisages a joint advisory group, co-chaired by INFCOM and the WMO Research Board, to guide the implementation of the plan, with the appropriate involvement of external stakeholders.

Notes to Editors

The Executive Council (EC) is the executive body of the WMO responsible for implementing the decisions made by Congress. It coordinates programmes, manages the budget, and considers and acts upon resolutions and recommendations from regional associations and technical commissions. Additionally, it studies and makes recommendations on issues that affect international meteorology and related activities.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for promoting international cooperation in atmospheric science and meteorology.

WMO monitors weather, climate, and water resources and provides support to its Members in forecasting and disaster mitigation. The organization is committed to advancing scientific knowledge and improving public safety and well-being through its work.

For further information, please contact:

  • Clare Nullis WMO media officer cnullis@wmo.int +41 79 709 13 97
  • WMO Strategic Communication Office Media Contact media@wmo.int