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COP27: UN unveils $3bn plan to achieve early warning systems

by Haruna Gimba

By Haruna Gimba

United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, on Monday, unveiled the details of his Executive Action Plan for the Early Warnings for All initiative, to ensure everyone on the planet was protected by early warning systems within the next five years.

The Executive Action Plan for the Early Warnings for All initiative, calls for initial new targeted investments of $3.1 billion between 2023 and 2027, equivalent to a cost of just 50 cents per person per year.

Guterres announced the plan at the ongoing COP27 climate change conference at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, during a meeting of government and UN leaders, financing agencies, ‘Big Tech’ companies and the private sector.

He told them that people who had barely even contributed to the climate crisis were the most at risk and the least protected.

“Vulnerable communities in climate hotspots are being blindsided by cascading climate disasters without any means of prior alert,” he said.

“People in Africa, South Asia, South and Central America, and the inhabitants of small island states are 15 times more likely to die from climate disasters.

“These disasters displace three times more people than war. And the situation is getting worse,” he said in a statement.

According to him, even though early warning systems save lives, vulnerable communities have no way of knowing that hazardous weather is on its way.

“Countries with limited early warning coverage have disaster mortality eight times higher than countries with high coverage.

“The Action Plan launched today sets out the way forward to right this wrong, and protect lives and livelihoods,” said Guterres.

The UN chief had first announced the early warnings target back in March.

The plan will address key gaps in understanding disaster risk, monitoring and forecasting, rapid communication, and preparedness and response.

The $3.1 billion represents a small fraction – roughly six per cent – of the requested 50 billion dollars in adaptation financing, according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

The UN agency and partners drew up the plan, which was supported by a joint statement signed by 50 countries.

WMO said the need for early warning systems was urgent as the number of recorded disasters had increased five-fold, driven in part by human-induced climate change and more extreme weather.

Even though this trend is expected to continue, half of all countries do not have early warning systems in place, and even fewer have regulatory frameworks to link early warnings to emergency plans.

Coverage is worst for developing countries on the front lines of climate change, namely the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

According to WMO, when it comes to climate change adaptation, early warning systems are widely regarded as the “low-hanging fruit” because they are a relatively cheap and effective way of protecting people and assets.

Furthermore, the Global Commission on Adaptation found that spending just 800 million dollars on these systems in developing countries would avoid losses of $3billion to $16 billion per year.

“Such progress is only possible with modern science, sustained systematic observing networks, daily international exchange of quality data, access to high-quality early warning products, the translation of forecasts into impacts, plus advances in telecommunications.

“The UN, governments and partners will work together to achieve the early warning goal within the next five years,” Petteri Taalas, the WMO Secretary-General, said.

He added that the plan summarised the necessary initial actions and set out the pathway to implementation.

To ensure effective implementation, he said the UN Secretary-General was establishing an Advisory Board which would be co-chaired by the heads of WMO and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR).

Its members, he said would include many of the key partners who helped shape the plan to date, and the Secretary-General would receive progress reports in advance of future annual COP meetings.

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