Early Warnings for All Action Plan unveiled at COP27

By World Meteorological Organization

Early Warnings for All Action Plan unveiled at COP27

It will cost the equivalent of just 50 cents per person per year for the next five years to reach everyone on Earth with early warnings against increasingly extreme and dangerous weather, according to a plan unveiled today by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

The Executive Action Plan for the Early Warnings for All initiative calls for initial new targeted investments between 2023 and 2027 of US$ 3.1 billion – a sum which would be dwarfed by the benefits. This is a small fraction (about 6 percent) of the requested US$ 50 billion in adaptation financing. It would cover disaster risk knowledge, observations and forecasting, preparedness and response, and communication of early warnings.

Mr. Guterres announced the plan at a meeting of government and UN organization leaders, financing agencies, Big Tech companies, and the private sector during the World Leaders Summit at the UN climate change negotiations, COP27. The plan was drawn up by the World Meteorological Organization and partners, and it was supported by a joint statement signed by 50 countries.

“Ever-rising greenhouse gas emissions are supercharging extreme weather events across the planet. These increasing calamities cost lives and hundreds of billions of dollars in loss and damage. Three times more people are displaced by climate disasters than war. Half of humanity is already in the danger zone,” said Mr. Guterres.

“We must invest equally in adaptation and resilience. That includes the information that allows us to anticipate storms, heatwaves, floods and droughts. To that end, I have called for every person on Earth to be protected by early warning systems within five years, with the priority to support the most vulnerable first,” said Mr. Guterres.

The Executive Action Plan sets out the concrete way forward to achieve this goal.

The need is urgent. The number of recorded disasters has increased by a factor of five, driven in part by human-induced climate change and more extreme weather. This trend is expected to continue.

And yet, half of countries globally do not have early warning systems 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 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

Scientific advances

Early warning systems are widely regarded as the “low-hanging fruit” for climate change adaptation because they are a relatively cheap and effective way of protecting people and assets from hazards, including storms, floods, heatwaves and tsunamis to name a few.

“Early warnings save lives and provide vast economic benefits. Just 24 hours notice of an impending hazardous event can cut the ensuing damage by 30 percent,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.

The Global Commission on Adaptation found that spending just US$800 million on such systems in developing countries would avoid losses of $3 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,” said Prof. Taalas.

The essential ingredients to achieve Early Warnings for All include: deeper understanding of risk across all time scales; stronger national meteorological and hydrological services, disaster risk management agencies and emergency preparedness measures; accessible financial and technical support and an anticipatory humanitarian sector. A people-centred approach that prioritizes community engagement is fundamental.

The Executive Action plan 2023-2027 sets out the recipe for how these ingredients can come together to achieve that goal. It summarizes the initial actions required to achieve the goal, and sets out the pathway to implementation.

Four pillars

The estimated new targeted investments of US$ 3.1 Billion over the five years would be used to advance the four key Multi-Hazard Early Warning System (MHEWS) pillars:

Photo Credit: WMO
  • Disaster risk knowledge (US$374 million) – systematically collect data and undertake risk assessments on hazards and vulnerabilities
  • Observations and Forecasting (US$1.18 billion) – develop hazard monitoring and early warning services
  • Preparedness and response ($1 billion) – build national and community response capabilities
  • Dissemination and communication (US$ 550 million) – communicate risk information so it reaches all those who need it, and is understandable and usable

The plan identifies key areas for advancing universal disaster risk knowledge, and outlines the priority actions required to achieve this, building on the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

It prioritizes the top technical actions required to enhance capacity to detect hazards, close the observations gap, and advance global forecast data processing systems and data exchange, optimizing international efforts.

The plan indicates how key foundational financing mechanisms will be scaled up to support the achievement of the goal, including a new framework developed by the Climate Risk and Early WarningSystems (CREWS) Initiative and Green Climate Fund, and the operationalization of the Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF).

The plan also calls for increased coherence and alignment of existing and planned investments from international financing institutions, utilizing the Alliance for Hydromet Development as an important uniting partnership of climate finance institutions.

The plan recognizes existing successful bilateral funds for early warnings and calls for an acceleration of these mechanisms. Tracking progress, informing decision-making, and measuring success are all key to ensuring effective implementation, and so plans are outlined to develop an objective Early Warnings for All Maturity Index in advance of COP 28.

To ensure progress and the continued strategic alignment of activities with implementing bodies, the United Nations Secretary-General is creating an Early Warnings for All Governing Board, co-chaired by the Executive Heads of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR).

Board membership will include many of the key partners who have shaped this Executive Action Plan to date. The Board will report annually on progress to the United Nations Secretary-General in advance of the COP meetings.

In addition, an annual Multi-Stakeholder Forum will be organized to enhance consultation and foster collaboration with a wider group of partners.