Volume 59(1) January 2010

WCC-3 High-level Segment: in their own words

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During the High-level Segment of WCC-3, from 3 to 4 September 2009, high-level policy-makers from 160 countries agreed to establish a Global Framework for Climate Services to “strengthen production, availability, delivery and application of science-based climate prediction and services”.

The policy-makers included the Heads of State/Government of Ethiopia, Monaco, Mozambique, Slovenia and Tajikistan, the Vice-Presidents of Comoros and the United Republic of Tanzania, the Premier of Niue, the Prime Ministers of Bangladesh and Cook Islands, the Vice Premier of China, more than 80 Ministers and other senior government officials. The following are some excerpts from some of their high-level (written) statements.

group photo
 
Heads of State and Government with the United Nations Secretary-General, the WMO Secretary-General, the WMO President, the Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other high-level representatives to the WCC-3 High-level Segment
(3-4 September 2009)

 

Laying the foundation…

“Exactly four years ago, heavy rainfall in Switzerland led to flooding and landslides. Several people were killed. We need precise information, such as short-term weather forecasts or hazard maps, to have the time to act in future. This could also prevent deaths and reduce the extent of the damage.

Currently, various regions of Africa and Asia are enduring serious storms, flooding and drought. In many places, the humanitarian situation is a major concern. Many people have fallen victim to the extreme weather; many others are in danger. We need urgent advance climate forecasts and efficient early warning systems.

The consequences of climate change pose huge challenges for our economy. Long-term investments must be made. We need forecasts on the state of our environment in the coming decades. And these forecasts have to be highly detailed.

Extreme weather events and changing climate conditions affect us all. Often they result in humanitarian disasters and widespread damage. Preventive measures may avert the most serious consequences. Our conference has the aim of preventing the disasters that I have just mentioned and providing authorities with the tools they require — weather forecasts, hazard maps, early warning systems and long-term environmental prognoses. …

We all want our societies to be able to withstand the consequences of climate change in the long term; all those involved will have to be able to react in good time to extreme events; scientists and experts will have to provide the information that makes this possible. At this conference, you will lay the foundations for a better future thanks to better climate information.”

H.E. Mr. Hans-Rudolf Merz, President of the Swiss Confederation

In support of the
Global Framework for Climate Services…

“Climate change and variability are global phenomena which affect us all in different forms. …

We predict that in Mozambique and in Africa, due to the potential increase in the frequency and magnitude of natural disasters and sea-level rise, that seawater intrusion and flooding can become a reality and, in our case, the city of Beira, which is below sea level, runs the risk of being submerged. We also predict that: health standards could deteriorate; our people could work harder for less agrarian results; the ecosystems could be significantly impoverished; competing for such resources as fertile land could destabilize nations and resources like water could spark inter-state conflicts.

We are addressing some of these risks, trying to turn them into opportunities for development. For example, our peasants have taken up the challenge and are building sturdier and spacious houses with homemade bricks on higher ground. The more fertile river valleys remain the food production areas with major contribution into our Green Revolution meant to increase food security and self-reliance in some crops. …

At a macro-policy level, we have moved from ad hoc adaptation measures to a National Adaptation Plan of Action on Climate Change. The priorities identified in the Plan include the strengthening of the monitoring and early warning systems and the mainstreaming of climate changes into water resources management. …

The heatwaves and the floods developed countries experience demonstrate that no single country is immune to these phenomena. More importantly, the very fact that climate change and variability interfere with the Millennium Development Goals should urge us all to act today because tomorrow may be too late. In this regard, while expressing our full support to the Global Framework for Climate Services, we would like to reiterate the appeal to our development partners to fulfil all their relevant international commitments”.

H.E. Mr Armando Emílio Guebuza, President of Mozambique and co-chair of the High-level Segment

“We have started to feel the country’s vulnerability to the adverse impacts of climate variabilities and to the resulting disasters, such as floods, landslides and droughts. Gradually, the awareness of the need for serious change has started to set in.

Now, we find ourselves in a double bind: that of environmental challenges and the other resulting from the economic recession. Quite paradoxically, the current recession underscores —much more clearly than the preceding period of high growth rates ever did — the seriousness of the need for a more sustainable pattern of development. The shortcomings of the past are perhaps better understood and the readiness for a real change is growing. The alarm bells are heard better than before.

So, where do we go from here? Clearly there are national priorities, such as the much-needed development of railway systems, that will have to be given high attention. We have to bring together all the efforts and consolidate the relevant policies in areas of energy, traffic, industrial development, urban and space planning and the system of taxation with a view to formulating a coherent and viable strategy of change. Taken together, all these tasks constitute a heavy agenda for the Government.

I believe we shall succeed. And I am convince that the international mechanism such as the Global Framework for Climate Services will help.”

H.E. Mr Danilo Türk, President of the Republic of Slovenia

“Our task for the years to come has been clearly identified. We must develop the practical tools that will help us reduce the pace of global warming and adapt to its consequences.

As we embark upon this task, the World Meteorological Organization’s contribution will prove essential, as it always has, ever since the organization was first set up. With its unique combination of scientific research and public policy development, WMO is indeed an irreplaceable forum for knowledge-acquisition and decision-making. …

Now we have entered the age of action, the age where time is of the essence and where we have within reach all that is required to develop an appropriate response. We will be supported by the major progress made over previous ages. But there will be no shunning a number of tough decisions, no avoiding some rude awakenings. Let us bear in mind that we will have to radically change the way we live, produce, consume, in developed countries and emerging economies alike. …

The Principality of Monaco has already strongly committed to do its part, both on its own territory and through cooperative action. Furthermore, my Foundation, which inter alia focuses on climate and energy, supports concrete projects aimed to sensitize and intervene, in particular in energy efficiency and the promotion of renewables. This is however only a beginning; much more will be required.

This Geneva Conference is therefore an important step… The goals it has set itself – with respect to scientific prediction, risk management and adaptation to climate variability – are for that matter clearly focused on efficient decision-making support.”

H.S.H. Prince Albert II,
Head of State of Monaco

“Bangladesh is among the countries severely affected by climate change, and estimates indicate that 20 million Bangladeshis would require relocation due to climate change impacts by 2050. A metre rise of sea level would inundate a third of Bangladesh. This would result in mass migration northwards, imposing increasing pressure on land and resource, and loss of livelihood of about 40 million people. The International Strategy for Disaster Reduction has ranked Bangladesh as the most vulnerable country to floods, third most to tsunami and sixth most to cyclones, in terms of human exposure.

At present, Bangladesh is experiencing erratic patterns of flooding and droughts. These have become a threat to ensuring food security through sustained agricultural production. Cyclones hit the coastal region regularly, causing tragic loss of innumerable lives and immense material damage. Besides, Bangladesh also faces riverbank erosion, landslides, soil degradation and deforestation. An alarming phenomenon is salinity intrusion in the coastal areas threatening Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest — a habitat of rich biodiversity and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These formidable challenges need to be addressed with the help of in the international community. …

The Declaration here would pave the way for a new World Climate Services System [a part of the Global Framework for Climate Services]. The success of the System would largely depend on international support and cooperation, in enhancing the technological and service delivery capacity of meteorological organizations of developing countries, especially the LDCs. …

Devising collective strategies based on informed decisions can disprove the dire prognosis about our future. We must not fail in delivering on the historic responsibility that we owe to our posterity.”

H.E. Ms Sheikh Hasina,
Prime Minister of Bangladesh

“Never before have the issues of climate and climate change received so much concern and attention from all governments, been so much cared and worried about by people around the world and been so much focused on and thought about by various international organizations. The issue of climate change calls for common and active responses from the international community, as it concerns the well-being of all people and the global sustainable development.

Therefore, it is both necessary and important to convene at this particular time the WCC-3 on the theme of “climate prediction and information for decision-making”. It will have significant and long-lasting implications on in-depth understanding of climate and climate change by the international community, and bring about positive and effective impetus to application of more tailored climate services in national economic and social development.

Since the Second World Climate Conference in 1990, relevant international organizations have launched a series of programmes and actions in the field of climate science. Substantive achievements were made in building up the global observing systems, improving the accuracy of climate prediction and delivering climate information for policy-makers. … The Chinese Government appreciates the WMO and relevant international organizations for their tireless efforts and fruitful work. …

Atmosphere recognizes no borders, and international cooperation transcends boundaries. Preparedness for and reduction of meteorological disasters, adaptation to and mitigation of climate change, exploration and utilization of climate resources are not only major issues of concern for China but also for the whole world. It is imperative for all countries to strengthen cooperation in wider range, greater depth and broader areas. Together with the international community, the Chinese Government will take practical and feasible measures and actions, conduct close cooperation and promote the climate services in multiple aspects so as to provide better climate services for the benefit of mankind, ad to make new contributions to the sustainable development of the human society.”

H.E. Mr Hui Liangyu, Vice Premier of the People’s Republic of China

podium
 
From left to right: John Zillman, Kofi Annan, Michel Jarraud, Hans-Rudolf Merz, Alexander Bedritskiy, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Sergei Ordzhonikidze and Buruhani Nyenzi at the WCC-3 Opening Ceremony

 

“Since no nation, no people can control the weather and climate, the only sensible way to deal with the threat is to promote preparedness in the management of the various weather and climate outcomes. Several discussions have been taking place under the aegis of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. However, it is crystal clear that no matter what agreements are reached in the short- and long-terms, adaptation to the various weather and climate conditions is a necessity and a right for all the citizens of the world, especially for those who are least responsible for creating climate change. …

In view of the grave threat that the climate poses to our past, current and future development endeavours, my Government is fully in support of the proposed Global Framework for Climate Services.

In lending my support to the Framework, I wish to remind the audience of the prevailing capacity gaps between countries and peoples. As a result, least developed countries like The Gambia would certainly require special support to enhance capacity in the implementation of the proposed Framework in order to have the desired impact on our communities. To this effect, I want to emphasize the need for training of professional in weather and climate, as well as the training of the various weather/climate information user groups.

... I would like to reiterate that addressing climate change and variability within the context of adaptation and mitigation is a sine qua non for sustainable development. In this regard, my Government will continue to place high on its development agenda climate and development challenges. By the same token, we urge all partners to fulfil their commitments to the climate challenge. Together, we can make this planet a safer place for mankind and generations yet unborn.”

H.E. Mr Antouman Saho, Minister of Fisheries, Water Resources and National Assembly Matters for The Gambia, read on behalf of H.E. Mr Yahya Jammeh,
President of The Gambia

“…the time has come to review the outputs that climate observation and prediction services have so far provided to various players in our States, and especially the way these are used and implemented. This review will help the global scientific community determine what gaps may exist between research efforts and the translation of scientific data into action to foster the socio-economic development of our States and the well-being of our societies.

With the considerable, and mainly negative, impact generated by climate variability and change on the survival conditions of our societies, it is important that climate information be made more accessible to different socio-professional categories in our countries through closer links between meteorological observation and prediction services. Currently, in developing countries such as mine, Togo, climate observation and prediction services often work with equipment that is no longer up to the challenges of our time: quantitatively very limited, it further suffers from a lack of technical and financial resources necessary for maintenance and the broad dissemination of information.

In order better to attenuate the negative effects of climate change and foster adaptation, our governments and our societies acutely need the outputs of observation and prediction services. These will help better determine our policies and strategies and consequently, improve their implementation in fields as major as food, health, water, disaster prevention, energy, tourism and transportation, to mention but a few.”

H.E. Mr Faure Gnassingbé,
President of Togo

“The need for aggressive action on climate change is abundantly clear from the impacts of warming that we have already seen. … Documented changes in the United States include increases in continental-average temperatures, rising sea levels in many coastal locations, an increased frequency of heavy rainfall events, longer growing seasons, earlier snowmelt, and altered river flow volumes. Water is a pervasive issue in every region of the United States, but the nature of the impact varies. Drought is a serious problem, especially in the West and Southeast; floods and water quality problems are expected to increase in most regions. In parallel to these climate changes, the ocean is becoming more acidic as it absorbs much of the excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. …

Today, user demands for climate information are increasing rapidly. Decision-makers at all levels of government, business leaders, civil society and individual citizens are asking how they can best prepare their communities, businesses or lives for the impacts of climate change. In particular, users need climate information and assessments at the scale that is relevant to their concerns. Scientists are increasingly able to provide the “right scale” information. …

The concept of ‘climate services’ is an idea that has been gestating for some time.

But, today marks the day that ‘climate services’ was born.

Even though the term is still foreign to many, I predict that it will become part of our lexicon, as ‘weather services’ is today. Just as we depend on all types of weather services now, we eagerly await the creation of a range of science-based climate forecasts and other services.

Inspired and empowered by the successes of the two previous World Climate Conferences, recognizing the reality and urgency of addressing climate change, understanding the imperative of grounding decisions in the best available science, and appreciating that users and providers of climate services must work together, this World Climate Conference is creating a new legacy. Improving development and delivery of climate services offers untold economic, environmental, human health, and national security benefits. For these reasons, the Obama Administration strongly supports the establishment of a Global Framework for Climate Services as an outcome of this Conference.”

Ms Jane Lubchenco, Head of the US Delegation to WCC-3

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