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NEWS: Weather and climate information services urgently need more sustainable approach

Effective climate change adaptation depends on strong, sustainable weather and climate information services. A new report and policy brief provide a roadmap for investing in sustainable capacity, based on African projects’ experiences.

A new report from ODI as part of the Weather and Climate Information Services for Africa (WISER) programme sheds light on the need to strengthen sustainable climate services across Africa if ambitions for effective climate adaptation are to be realised. The report is released today ahead of the Climate Ambition Summit, which takes place on 25 and 26 January 2021.

African countries are expected to be hit hard by climate change, and unpredictable and extreme weather is already having a significant impact on people’s lives across the continent.

Well-functioning weather and climate information services can save lives and livelihoods. In order for African communities and businesses to adapt more effectively to the inevitable impacts of climate change, these services (‘climate services’ for short) must be strengthened as comprehensively as possible – the researchers say.

The report ‘Investing for sustainable climate services: Insights from the African experience’ looks at the support provided to strengthen weather and climate information services in several African countries from 2016 to 2021. The authors consulted extensively with the experts who ran 15 projects across Africa as part of the WISER programme.

They found that donors have largely supported capacity-building efforts by funding short-term improvements. However, where country governments seek such assistance, donors should commit long term to bringing climate services up to scratch, in order to fulfil their promise of supporting adaptation and resilience.

The Climate Adaptation Summit 2021 – to be attended by many world leaders next Monday – will highlight the need to accelerate climate adaptation in Africa. This, ODI’s report finds, is not being sufficiently addressed when it comes to sustainable climate services.

Mairi Dupar, ODI Research Fellow and lead author of the report, said:

“Weather and climate information services are too often the missing ingredient of international climate talks and climate finance flows – and are often overlooked. But investing properly in these services so that they are robust, attuned to users’ needs, and sustainable for the long term is essential for getting climate change adaptation right. This is crucial in sub-Saharan Africa – where communities are deeply affected by climate change impacts.

Investing in effective, sustainable climate services is a vital part of adapting to climate change. This new report sets out how stakeholders, from government leaders and domestic agencies through to civil society organisations and development partners, can rise to the challenge to make sustainable, country-led climate resilience a reality.”

The ODI report looked at projects dedicated to building the capacity of weather and climate information services. Countries where projects were taking place included Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan and regionally in East and West Africa. Projects included strengthening weather observation networks and understanding of past and predicted climate trends, as well as delivering weather and climate information to those who need it for their everyday livelihood and business decisions.

The report found that the short-term improvements may be easily eroded if investment is not backed up by long-term plans to work with African institutions to keep climate services operational and local knowledge up-to-date after the projects end. The report’s recommendations include consolidating professional networks on the ground and producing sustainable business models that are in sync with national development priorities.

Improved capacity and know-how are required, not just within National Meteorological and Hydrological Services, but also within NGOs, women’s groups, civil society organisations and media organisations. These groups, the report finds, are key to delivering relevant and useful climate information to local communities and businesses: from artisanal fishermen to airline managers and public health officials.

Livingstone Byandaga, Project Coordinator at CIAT-Rwanda, one of the WISER partners that delivered a UK-funded project to implement a national framework for climate services, said:

“Establishing high-level political buy-in and accountability for climate services is especially true in Rwanda where the Government takes issues of climate change seriously. Our project focused on implementing the National Framework for Climate Services to ensure buy-in and accountability. We have trained the staff of Meteo Rwanda but there has to be the commitment to keep the trained people and maintain their skills over time; sometimes the skills acquired are not sustainably used to benefit the users of climate services – as the ODI/WISER report suggests.”

The projects in the study were funded by the UK Government’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). However, weather and climate information services are crucial in helping states adapt to climate change and, therefore, these recommendations apply to all investors and managers of national and local funded projects.

About the research

The Weather and Climate Information Services for Africa (WISER) programme’s purpose is to strengthen the capacity for climate services delivery in Africa. It focuses principally on East Africa and ran from 2016 to 2021. The WISER East Africa programme is led by the Met Office, the UK’s national meteorological service, and includes 19 projects (of which 15 were covered in this study). The programme is funded by the UK Government’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). 

‘Investing for sustainable climate services: Insights from the African experience’, presents the findings of a study on whether WISER projects created sustained capacity for effective climate services delivery. The study also assessed what future climate services programmes and projects can learn about sustainability from the WISER experience.

The report’s authors are Mairi Dupar, Lena Weingärtner and Sarah Opitz-Stapleton, researchers at ODI in the Global Risks and Resilience programme. The research was carried out in conjunction with WISER.

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