On this World Meteorological Day, WMO and ESCAP unpack the 2023 theme: Weather, Climate and Water across Generations – through a series of three opinion pieces focused on the Asia-Pacific region, each dedicated to answering the questions: What do weather, climate and water mean, how do they interact, and how are they changing? How do the changes in weather, climate and water impact our lives? What do we need to meet the needs of future generations concerning weather, climate and water?
We have explored what weather, climate and water mean how they have been changing, and how these changes have been impacting and will continue to impact, the lives and livelihoods of people across the vast and diverse Asia-Pacific region. This third and final part of the series reverberates the key message on this year’s World Meteorological Day - that our action today will shape the future of the planet.
How we decide to act now will influence what the weather, climate and water will look like for our future generations.
In order to be prepared for the weather to come, be resilient in the face of climate change and look after the water resources available, the world is working together to achieve a ‘greener’ and ‘bluer’ future through three significant global initiatives.
1. The Paris agreement as the ultimate guide for climate change adaptation and mitigation by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and limiting the global temperature rise. To meet the target, some proactive actions are outlined below:
Decarbonizing energy production in terms of reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and shifting towards renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydropower. This can be achieved through establishing policies including carbon pricing, renewable energy subsidies, and energy efficiency standards.
Reducing energy use by cutting down on energy waste through more efficient buildings, appliances, and transportation which reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save money. Policy guidance can include green-energy building codes, appliance standards, and fuel efficiency standards for vehicles.
Transitioning to low-carbon transportation. As transport is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, it is vital to reduce emissions from cars, trucks, buses, and airplanes by promoting electric vehicles, public transportation, and sustainable biofuels.
Promoting sustainable land use. Deforestation, agriculture, and land-use change are major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Sustainable land use practices must be promoted, which include reforestation, reducing food waste, and sustainable agriculture.
Investing in research and development through promotion of and investment in research and development for clean energy technologies, carbon capture and storage, and other innovative solutions can accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy.
International cooperation as an essential ingredient to meet the Paris Agreement goals. Countries must work together to share knowledge and technologies, provide financial and technical assistance to developing countries, and set ambitious targets for reducing emissions (and beyond).
WMO Regional Associations and Technical Commissions and ESCAP promote and facilitate regional cooperation in support of regional attainment of the Paris Agreement.
2. Early Warnings for All (EW4All) by 2027
A challenge and big opportunity for the world that by 2027, all people, regardless of their location, will have access to timely and accurate information about the likelihood and impact of natural hazards. This global initiative ensures that everyone has access to timely and accurate information to help them prepare and protect themselves from the impacts of natural hazards. EW4All can be achieved by strengthening national and regional early warning systems, enhancing new technologies, and promoting better communication and coordination among stakeholders, including governments, civil society organizations, and the private sector. The initiative also emphasizes the importance of involving communities in the design and implementation of early warning systems to ensure that they are effective, relevant, and accessible to all.
With the global action plan launched at the COP 27, the focus in the Asia Pacific region is the downscaling this plan to the region. As Asia-Pacific’s riskscape evolves with rapid intensification and expansion of multi-hazard risk hotspots, millions of already vulnerable people are being subject to increased risk from intensifying and compounding disasters; food and energy systems are exposed to the shocks which are more intense, frequent, and in many cases unanticipated. With this riskscape in mind, special emphasis is also needed to ensure efforts to advance early warning systems appropriately cover high-risk and low-capacity countries, as well as Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Asia and the Pacific. ESCAP’s Trust Fund for Tsunami, Disaster and Climate Preparedness, a regional financing mechanism, has been addressing the unmet needs in multi-hazard early warning systems in Asia and the Pacific since 2005.
WMO’s Secretary General stated how LDCs suffer the most from the direct and indirect effects of poor weather and climate services. Their lack of surface-based observational data severely impacts the quality of weather forecasts, climate predictions and early warning systems. This is tackled by the Systematic Observation Financing Facility (SOFF) to support the most vulnerable countries, in particular LDCs and SIDS, to fill the weather observation data gaps. SOFF will provide technical and financial assistance to enable these countries to generate and exchange basic observation data in compliance with the requirements of the Global Basic Observing Network (GBON).
Universal access to early warning systems not only has the potential to deliver benefits up to 10 times the initial cost, but has also been shown to dramatically reduce economic losses due to disaster events and protect hard won gains towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
Given its integrated approach, within the relatively short span of time, EW4All can be an effective demonstration of how we meet a component of the needs of future generations concerning weather, climate and water.
3. Sustainable Development Goals to protect water and climate
Recognizing that our weather, climate and water cycle will be different for future generations, our focus in the present needs to be founded on better adaptation and mitigation.
ESCAP’s Asia and the Pacific SDG Progress Report 2022 notes that SDG 13: Climate Action has regressed in the region – GHG emissions have continued to rise, and natural disasters are having an increasing impact on people and economies. Reversing the negative trend on climate action should be the top priority of the region. If nothing is done, then under the worst-case climate change scenario, water and climate services will be severely impacted, more and more people will be exposed to water scarcity and annual economic losses due to disaster events could rise to $1.3 trillion; or 4.2 per cent of the region’s GDP.
Technological advancement is a proven pathway to strengthen efforts to advance SDGs in relation to climate and water in Asia and the Pacific. Collective efforts by WMO and other agencies in utilizing science as evidence to inform public is a major step towards the future of weather, water and climate that we want, which is forecasted to be revolutionized by supercomputers, satellite and remote sensing technology, smart mobile devices, continuing scientific advances, and international collaboration.
The Aral Sea Storyboard is another example of using innovative technology to build knowledge and awareness of a transboundary water disaster. Clearly presenting the history and the likely future of the basin by using the latest climate projections under the 1.5- and 2-degree warming scenarios, the storyboard brings attention the urgency and the need for a transformative regional action to reverse the catastrophe.
Reinvigorating multilateralism to achieve SDG progress is also another effective avenue for the region. This integrated approach combines four key elements; each element reinforces the others (as shown in the Figure). WMO’s data sharing policy is a good example of how multilateral approaches can work to advance the sustainable development of our climate and water futures.
On this World Meteorological Day, let us collectively reflect on what can be done today to ensure safe and adequate weather, climate and water for future generations.
(The authors would like to acknowledge Mr. Jun YU (WMO Regional Officer) for his contribution to the opinion pieces and for stewarding the cooperation between ESCAP and WMO)