A new decade for impact-based forecasting for the humanitarian sector

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We know that investing in early action is worth it, both in terms of lives saved and the economic benefit. But without accessible technology it becomes much harder to anticipate disasters and their impacts and take action in advance. Impact-based forecasting is an innovative way of approaching climate and weather services – a shift from “what the weather will be” toward an assessment of “what the weather will do”.

Moving toward specific climate services like impact-based forecasting in the places likely to be most affected by climate-related hazards is a cornerstone for an anticipatory approach to the humanitarian crisis. With impact-based forecasting, disaster managers and humanitarian actors, including Red Cross Red Crescent national societies, can undertake risk reduction and preparedness and plan for response well ahead of an event.

The year 2020 was a crucial year for the improvement of the concept of impact-based forecasting for early action. On the one hand, WMO, its members and partners including the Red Cross Red Crescent worked to update the Guidelines on Multi-Hazard Impact-based Forecast and Warning services, a guiding document for all the national hydrometeorological services (NHMS) to start developing a risk-informed type of climate and weather forecasting.

The updated guidelines will have six new chapters that include organizing impact-based information, the communication of risk “to ensure warnings are understood and acted upon”, and training on the “integration of community and traditional knowledge”, among others. The update will also embrace “strong collaboration with partner agencies and significant research into exposure and vulnerability.”

In parallel, the UK Met Office and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre launched a ground-breaking new guide called Impact-Based Forecasting for Early Action that outlines key steps of the co-production of an impact-based forecasting service to enable anticipatory actions including forecast-based financing initiatives.

This guide could be used by NHMSs and the anticipatory action community around the world to design and develop decision-making services to anticipate the humanitarian impacts and trigger early action to mitigate those impacts well in advance.

In Mongolia, this is already a reality. The national meteorological agency produces an impact-based forecast service that is used by the Mongolian Red Cross and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to trigger early action a few months in advance of the possible disaster impact of Dzud (the severe winter).

Based on this information the International Federation of the Red Cross realizes proactive funding in advance of the shock to support communities that are likely suffer, so they can reduce risks and address needs in a proactive way. A similar process of co-production of an impact-based forecasting service to trigger anticipatory action is now underway in Nepal and Bangladesh as well.

Under the Asia Regional Resilience to a Changing Climate (ARRCC) program, the Red Cross Climate Centre is collaborating with the UK Met Office to deliver trainings to the national hydro-met agencies, humanitarian and disaster risk reduction stakeholders on impact-based forecasting for early action and have been facilitating the stakeholder engagement during the ongoing piloting process in these countries.

With impact-based forecasting, it is clear that scientific agencies like national meteorological and hydrological departments cannot develop it by themselves. Collaboration by forecasting agencies, disaster managers and humanitarian actors is required to gather information on vulnerability, exposure and capacity, and identify the impacts causing most concern.

In order to scale up the collaboration between met agencies, humanitarian agencies and the disaster risk reduction sector for risk-informed climate services for anticipatory action in the decade to come, the Anticipation Hub was created. The Anticipation Hub is a platform facilitating knowledge exchange, learning and guidance on anticipatory (humanitarian) action.

This joint initiative between the German Red Cross (GRC), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre (Climate Centre) brings together partners across the Red Cross Red Crescent network, universities, research institutes, NGOs, UN agencies, governments, donors and network initiatives, with funding support from the German Federal Foreign Office.

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