At the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP27, the partners of the Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF) met to mobilize additional funding to ensure that the most vulnerable countries have the means to acquire and exchange the essential weather and climate data that underpins all adaptation efforts.
SOFF focuses on supporting small island developing states (SIDS) and least developed countries (LDCs) to close the large gaps in basic weather and climate data which are essential to forecasts, building climate resilience and ensuring effective implementation of the new action plan to ensure that everyone on Earth is protected by early warnings in the next five years.
As an integral part of the Executive Action Plan of the Early Warnings for All initiative, SOFF has a target to support 100 countries in the next five years. According to the organization, it will provide 65 SIDS and LDCs with technical assistance, investments and open-ended results-based funding and 35 ODA-eligible countries with technical assistance. Earlier in November 2022, the SOFF Steering Committee selected the first 26 countries that will receive SOFF support.
Those that have already made a financial contribution to the SOFF UN Fund include Austria, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, the USA and the Nordic Development Fund, which serves as a co-chair of the SOFF Steering Committee. At COP27, Spanish President Pedro Sanchez announced a financial contribution from his country, and Anne Beathe Tvinnereim, Norwegian Minister of International Development, declared that Norway will substantially increase its contribution.
This data was also found to be critical for the private sector. The CEO of the African Risk Capacity group, Lesley Ndlovu, joined the event to emphasize the urgent need to fill these data gaps to ensure the effectiveness of disaster risk management and financing in Africa. In recognition of the foundational value of this data for more reliable and cost-effective responses to climate shocks and disasters and sustainable resilience-building, SOFF formally joined the InsuResilience Global Partnership.
SOFF partners gathered at the event are also working together to reflect the importance of systematic observation of the climate to meet the Paris Agreement adaptation goal. As part of the presentation of the 2022 Implementation of Plan of the Global Climate Observing System, a Global Goal on Observation and sustainable financing for its implementation, including through SOFF, is being promoted at COP27 deliberations. This will contribute to ensuring that the pressing needs for systematic observation in highly vulnerable countries are rapidly addressed.
SOFF provides long-term technical and grant-based financial assistance to enable countries to acquire and internationally exchange basic weather and climate data. It was established at COP26 in 2021 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as a United Nations Multi Partner Trust Fund (UNMPTF).
Antonio Guterres, secretary-general for the United Nations, spoke about the Early Warnings for All Action Plan at the World Leaders Summit at COP27: “We must invest equally in adaptation and resilience. That includes the information that allows us to anticipate storms, heatwaves, floods and droughts.”
Selwin Hart, special adviser to the secretary-general on climate action and just transition for the United Nations, added, “Early warning systems save lives and protect livelihoods. We must work to scale up SOFF in support of the Secretary-General’s Early Warning Systems for All Initiative as an urgent priority.”
Petteri Taalas, secretary-general of the WMO, stated, “Today, less than 10% of required basic weather and climate observations are available from Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries.”
Florence Rabier, director-general of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), explained, “Better global forecasts enable better local forecasts, applications and services that, in turn, can be used to prepare for extreme events and plan for specific environmental conditions and this ultimately benefits everybody.”
Monica Medina, US Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, said, “Strengthening and sustaining climate data is critical if we want to provide high-quality climate information and early warnings at the local level where adaptation takes place. The United States is proud to support the Systematic Observations Financing Facility in filling observation gaps around the world.”
Speaking at the event, Inger Andersen, executive director of UNEP, thanked all partners for their support thus far and urged other potential funders to follow with concrete commitments: “If we back SOFF, we can save lives, protect assets and property and foster economic growth in the countries suffering most from climate change. This is solidarity and climate justice in action.”
Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the international monetary fund, said, “In the new climate economy, weather data are an important component of economic data and collecting and sharing this information is absolutely vital. Better data will improve climate models and climate risk assessments, and it will mean better targeting for critical adaptation investments.”
Sigrid Kaag, Minister of Finance of the Netherlands and co-chair of the Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action, highlighted the importance of weather and climate data for effective economic decision-making. The importance of improving basic weather and climate observations will be on the agenda for the Coalition’s event on November 10, co-hosted with WMO.