A new finance mechanism to strengthen weather and climate observations, improve early warnings to save lives, protect livelihoods and underpin climate adaptation for long-term resilience has opened its doors for business.
The Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF) is a key building block for a new initiative spearheaded by United Nations Secretary-General General António Guterres to ensure that early warning services reach everyone in the next five years.
SOFF seeks to address the long-standing problem of missing weather and climate observations from Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States. In support of the Paris Agreement, it will strengthen the international response to climate change by filling the data gaps that limit the understanding of the climate. These gaps affect the capacity to predict and adapt to extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, and heatwaves.
Heads of the three founding agencies, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and UN Environment Programme (UNEP), ministers from donor countries, representatives of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) Group, and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and development partners met at the first SOFF Steering Committee meeting in Helsinki at the Finnish Meteorological Institute to open SOFF doors for business.
SOFF becomes operational thanks to the support from many partners and the initial financial contributions from Austria, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, and the Nordic Development Fund. Support is expected to grow as additional countries that consider potential future funding attended the meeting. Ministers and senior officials from the initial funders emphasized the urgency of closing the huge weather and climate data gaps through SOFF (see statements below).
“As the climate crisis worsens, it is crucial that we boost the power of prediction for everyone so countries can reduce disaster risk. That is why we have launched an initiative to ensure that every person on Earth is protected by early warning systems within the next five years. The Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF) is an essential tool to achieve this. I thank all the countries that are providing initial funding to the SOFF UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund and urge others to do the same,” said Mr. Guterres.
“Early warning systems are built on the foundation of weather observation data, but this foundation is patchy to non-existent in many in LDCs and African countries,” stated Selwin Hart, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Climate Action and Just Transition “I want to congratulate all the countries that have come forward and announce or soon will announce their financial contributions to the SOFF UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund. I urge others to follow suit and help create a strong global data foundation upon which timely, accurate, people-centered early warning systems can be built for everyone. Our collective efforts are needed more than ever.”
“Less than 10% of required basic weather and climate observations are available from Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries,” said Prof. Petteri Taalas, WMO Secretary-General. “The world urgently needs this data and this is why SOFF will be a partnership of equals where everyone has a role and responsibilities.”
SOFF provides benefits not only to the most vulnerable countries but to all countries across the globe. The improved availability of weather and climate observations enabled by the SOFF is essential if the world community is to realize the 162 billion US dollars annually in socio-economic benefits of weather and climate prediction.
Global Basic Observing Network
The objective of SOFF is to support Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and LDCs through the provision of grant financing and technical assistance for the sustained collection and international exchange of surface-based weather and climate observations according to the internationally agreed Global Basic Observing Network (GBON) and to help other developing countries in assessing how to meet the GBON requirements.
A United Nations Multi-Partner Trust Fund
WMO, UNDP, and UNEP legally-established SOFF last year at COP26 as a UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund. The first Steering Committee adopted the governance structure and programming criteria, as well as a preliminary work program on how SOFF proposes to deliver support to beneficiary countries in terms of targets and planned allocation of resources for the first implementation period from July 2022 to June 2025.
Inger Andersen, UNEP Executive Director, emphasized that “Now is the time to begin business by providing financial resources and technical capacity, by ensuring that from local to the global, all our actions can be informed by the best science and the best data. My deep thanks to the generous funders who will announce their firm pledges today. I encourage all to follow suit because now is the time to roll up our sleeves and get to work for people and for the planet.”
UN Under-Secretary-General and UNDP Associate Administrator Usha Rao-Monari followed, adding that “The United Nations Development Program is a proud co-founder of the SOFF UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund. Together with WMO and UNEP, we are building upon the momentum generated over the past two years and I want to sincerely thank all stakeholders that contributed to the development of the SOFF. The specialized support provided by SOF is needed more than ever.”