Weather experts from around the world began convening in Geneva on Monday for a congress where Swiss Interior Minister Alain Berset emphasised the need to reduce the impact of natural disasters and climate change.
Organisers of the congress, held by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) every four years, say it will focus on how to strengthen weather and climate services to meet the needs of a growing global population and to cope with climate variability and change, extreme weather and related shocks on all socio-economic sectors.
"To ensure sustainable development, the global community needs reliable information on the state of the climate and the changes underway at this level,” Berset said on behalf of Switzerland, host to the organisation’s headquarters. “This is where WMO plays a key role, now and in the future.”
Switzerland has been campaigning for a global climate regime that ensures adequate reductions of industrial gases that trap heat in the atmosphere like a greenhouse.
Road to Paris
The Geneva meeting occurred against the backdrop of the looming United Nations-brokered climate talks set for December in Paris, where negotiators hope to reach a deal that would set national targets to cut heat-trapping carbon emissions.
“As the global thermostat continues to rise, meteorological services are more essential than ever,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. He urged attendees to prepare compelling videos about the dangers of an overheated planet ahead of the Paris conference “so that all understand the stakes involved”.
Michel Jarraud, the WMO’s secretary-general, said the congress that runs until June 12 must build greater international cooperation and investment in weather and climate observations and services. They are essential, he said, to boosting resilience to weather and climate, promoting sustainable development and helping humanity cope with the changing climate.
“So far in 2015 – as in preceding years – weather-related disasters have destroyed or disrupted millions of lives and livelihoods,” said Jarraud, whose successor next year is to be appointed by the congress.
Among the specific items to be taken up by attendees in Geneva are a global plan for helping countries adapt to climate; expanded observation and research that looks at interactions between ocean, land, and the cryosphere and atmosphere; and a more cross-cutting approach towards helping urban areas cope with hazards and pollution.