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Opening address by Michel Jarraud

23 March 2012

Mr Kandeh K. Yumkella, Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO),
Dr Jean Jouzel, Chair of the French Meteorological Society (SMF),
Distinguished Representative of the WMO Staff Association,
Dear Colleagues and Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to welcome you to the WMO Secretariat on the occasion of World Meteorological Day, which we celebrate every year to commemorate the coming into force of the WMO Convention on 23 March 1950.

I wish to welcome our Special Guest for this ceremony, Mr Kandeh K. Yumkella, Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). With over 20 years experience in international cooperation, on innumerable occasions Mr Yumkella has provided decisive leadership to international initiatives and promoted enhanced cooperation in the areas of sustainable industrial development, trade capacity building, renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Between 1994 and 1995, before joining UNIDO, Mr Yumkella was the Republic of Sierra Leone Minister for Trade, Industry and State Enterprises. He has since served the UN System in various capacities, in particular as Chair of UN-Energy, a System-wide UN coordination body charged with ensuring coherence in energy-related issues, much like UN-Water with which I am increasingly becoming familiar, as well as Chair of the UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change (AGECC). Even more recently, he was appointed Co-Chair of the High-level Group on Sustainable Energy for All and serves as a member of the Rio+20 Principals Group, as well as the UN Development Group (UNDG).

I am also very pleased to welcome our Guest Speaker for this event, Dr Jean Jouzel, who is Research Director at France's Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) and Administration Council Chair of the French Meteorological Society (SMF). The SMF was established in 1852 as a scientific society but it has since enlarged its scope as a wider assembly of meteorological stakeholders, including in particular academia, research, professional meteorologists, the specialized media and many sympathizers.

The Society is well-known throughout our community, through its tri-monthly publication La Météorologie, which the SMF co-edits with Météo-France.

We are indeed fortunate to have Professor Jouzel, who is in Geneva to take part in the 9th International Weather and Climate Forum as one of its Scientific Committee Co-Chairs. The Forum convenes meteorologists, climatologists, decision-makers, specialized journalists and weather presenters from 40 countries.

As a climatologist and a glaciologist, Professor Jouzel has contributed decisively to successive IPCC Assessment Reports, thanks to his research experience of over 40 years - or should I say of over 800,000 years? - in the area of past climate reconstruction for the Antarctic and Greenland. Not to preempt his lecture, I prefer to say no more and I look forward to his presentation.

As every year, we are honoured by the presence of Ambassadors and Representatives of the Permanent Missions and UN System organizations in Geneva, as well as by the company of the media, our traditional partners in the protection of life and property. As usual, the World Meteorological Day also provides me the opportunity to express my gratitude to all WMO staff and to welcome our retirees, since this is their celebration as well as ours.

Excellencies, Dear Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me recall that before 23 March 1950, international collaboration in meteorology was the scope of the International Meteorological Organization (IMO), a non-governmental association which resulted from the 1873 First International Meteorological Congress, convened in Vienna to facilitate standardization of meteorological observations and instruments and to coordinate the protection of life and property from the perils of weather hazards.

The two organizations coexisted up to the closure of the last IMO Conference of Directors, which occurred in Paris on 17 March 1951. The First WMO Congress opened at the same venue two days later, in the presence of delegates from 66 Members, including 46 States and 20 Territories. At the end of the year, WMO became a specialized agency of the UN System.

WMO is entering its seventieth decade in the UN System, a framework which has facilitated exceptional partnerships with the rest of the UN family, of which I could provide many successful examples. In particular, in 1976 WMO released an authoritative statement on the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the potential impacts on the Earth’s climate which contributed to attract global attention for the first time on an issue which the UN Secretary-General has identified as “the defining challenge of our era”.

Following the First World Climate Conference, organized in 1979 to consider this new threat, WMO and ICSU established the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), subsequently also sponsored by UNESCO through its Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC). WCRP has provided the scientific foundation for successive assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which WMO and UNEP established in 1988.

Following the 1990 Second World Climate Conference, WMO joined forces with ICSU, UNEP and UNESCO/IOC to establish the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS). The conference provided decisive momentum for the establishing of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Excellencies, Dear Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I could provide further examples of the benefits which WMO has provided to the UN System during these six decades, whilst the map of the world evolved to the point that today WMO has 189 Members and a mandate in weather climate and water; however, some of these new Members are developing countries still lacking all the necessary resources, so capacity development through technical cooperation and education and training have been key areas in which WMO has contributed to make a vital difference.

Natural disasters threaten human security, in particular due to climate variability and change, so WMO has devoted major efforts to develop operational warning systems and effective preparedness measures, which over the last decades contributed to a significant decrease in the associated loss of lives, despite the fact that the frequency and associated damages of hydrometeorological hazards have augmented dramatically during the same period.

In the summer of 2009, the Third World Climate Conference (WCC-3) followed-up on the first two historic conferences and unanimously agreed on the need for a Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS), a decision formally sustained in 2011 by the Sixteenth World Meteorological Congress.

Fully aware of this perspective, in 2010 the WMO Executive Council decided at its sixty-second session that the theme for the 2012 World Meteorological Day would be “Powering our future with weather, climate and water", in particular to illustrate the benefits offered by weather, climate and water information to all socio-economic sectors, as communities around the globe are striving to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals, increase their resilience in the face of recurrent natural disasters and proactively respond to the challenges of climate variability and change.

The Sixteenth WMO Congress decided that the four initial GFCS priorities would be disaster risk reduction, water, health, and food security. The first of these priorities, disaster risk reduction, has been for years a high WMO priority and it continues to be so.

The number of vulnerable communities has augmented significantly as a consequence of increased urbanization and population shifts into more fragile areas, such as coasts, lowlands, arid regions, megadeltas and floodplains. This issue is critically coupled with the increase in the frequency and intensity of a number of extreme events anticipated by the last IPCC Report, so decision-makers and emergency response managers will require more and better climate services to formulate the most appropriate contingency plans.

During the recent UNFCCC COP 17 session in Durban, WMO once more underscored that improved research, observations, prediction and capacity development are all essential elements to the protection of life and property in the most vulnerable countries, some of which already have considerable difficulties in maintaining their respective hydrometeorological observing and telecommunications networks, so they will need enhanced support to bridge the growing scientific and technological gaps with the developed world and to safeguard their fragile development.

Excellencies, Dear Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The theme of this World Meteorological Day affords WMO Members a key opportunity to illustrate some of the most significant benefits which can be derived from weather, climate and water observations and predictions, in particular from the perspective of climate as a resource and to power their sustainable development through the GFCS.

To focus on energy generation as an example cutting across the four initial GFCS priorities, let me mention that while many renewable energy projects must necessarily be large-scale, several “green” technologies like wind, solar and hydropower are especially well-suited for the rural and remote areas. To determine the feasibility of such alternative energy sources in any given area, reliable climate data is a prerequisite.

Through its 2010 report Energy for a Sustainable Future, the UN high-level Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change which Mr Yumkella chairs has reported that, by scaling up renewable energy and other low-emission technologies, it would be possible to provide universal access to modern energy services by 2030 without significantly increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

Before concluding, please allow me to recall that the recently released 2011 WMO Statement on the status of the climate clearly underlines the continuing changes in our climate. The 13 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1997 and global temperatures in 2011 were higher than any previous La Niña year, an event which usually has a cooling influence. Concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have continued to increase unabated, reaching an all-time high in 2011, while the extent of Arctic sea ice cover last summer was the second lowest on record and the overall sea ice volume was most likely the lowest ever registered.

Weather, climate and water have been powering our socio-economic development for years and they shall increasingly contribute to assist us in meeting the future challenges, especially in the context of the GFCS, for which WMO and the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) will provide the main thrust in terms of authoritative scientific knowledge; timely data and products; and climate services. Moreover, the GFCS will also be invaluable for natural disaster risk reduction as well in adapting to the changes to which we are already committed on account of the inertia of the climate system.

Through the GFCS and through other initiatives which shall follow, WMO will be an increasingly relevant Organization over the coming years, for which we are especially in debt to successive generations of meteorologists and hydrologists from all countries. Let us acknowledge their contributions today, as we celebrate the World Meteorological Day for 2012.

Thank you.












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