Innovative finance for global weather and climate data

The Nordic Development Fund (NDF) has committed 10 million Euros to the Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF), a groundbreaking financing mechanism designed to ramp up the global understanding of climate change by significantly increasing the availability of essential weather and climate data. 

The NDF Managing Director, Ms. Karin Isaksson, welcomed the creation of SOFF and emphasized that “Having accurate metrics is important for early warning systems to work efficiently. They sharpen decisions both for public and private investors, and most importantly save lives and increase the resilience of the most vulnerable populations”

The latest report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made it clear that climate change is already impacting every corner of the world and much more severe impacts are in store if we fail to take adequate action now. For this reason, the Nordic Development Fund is pleased to be among the initial funders of SOFF. The implementation of this new financing mechanism will ensure that climate action is underpinned by the best available science and data and will make possible the breakthrough on climate adaptation called for by the United Nations Secretary-General.

Strengthening the foundations of adaptation

All monitoring and prediction of weather and climate start from the collection and global exchange of observations – these data provide the only source of knowledge about the atmosphere and the climate system. However, currently, there are large data gaps from the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) which undermine the basis upon which all climate adaptation investments and decisions are made.

“Vulnerable countries do not have sufficient resources to comply with the internationally agreed requirements for the generation and exchange of basic weather and climate data. Many Small Island States like us, despite being small countries, have large geographic responsibility in terms of data gathering and yet our resources are very limited,” said the Prime Minister of Cabo Verde, H.E. Ulisses Correia e Silva.

Launch of radiosonde (weather balloon in Nahdi, Fiji). Photo by Lars Peter Riishojgaard

Investing in innovation

Investments made in observing systems over the last three decades have generally not resulted in a significant and sustained increase in observational data exchange and the situation continues to deteriorate.

SOFF responds to the need to develop a global approach and innovative financing model to address this problem. SOFF innovative features include using sustained international data exchange as a measure of success of investments; providing long-term result-based finance for sustained data sharing; enhancing technical competency through peer-to-peer advisory services, harnessing the expertise of advanced national meteorological services; and leveraging partners’ knowledge and resources.

Recognizing the importance of improving the availability of observations data to improve the quality of critical weather forecasts and climate services, the Nordic countries have strongly supported the creation of SOFF since the beginning. As the Danish Minister for Development Cooperation Flemming Møller Mortensen said at COP26 “before we can begin to adapt, we need to have strong data on weather and climate.” Indeed, global climate action can only be as good as the data it is based on.

Protecting lives and the economy  

Everyone will benefit from filling these critical data gaps. According to a 2021 study from the World Bank, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the UK Met Office, investments in weather and climate observations are essential to fully realize the US$ 162 billion of estimated minimum annual socio-economic benefits of weather and climate prediction.

“The creation of SOFF is a critical milestone to deliver tangible benefits in terms of lives saved, improved disaster management, livelihoods, biodiversity, food security, water supply and economic growth,” according to Inger Andersen, UN Environment Programme Executive Director.

Yet these investments are operationally complex and require close cooperation of a wide range of stakeholders. As Professor Petteri Taalas, WMO Secretary-General said “We must continue investing in basic observing systems and fill in data gaps, but it’s going to take all UN agencies.”

Achim Steiner, UN Development Programme Administrator stressed that “the U.N. system is playing a critical role in helping vulnerable communities across the world to get ahead of the curve, to adapt to the effects of climate change and build much-needed resilience. UNDP is therefore proud of having established with WMO and UNEP the Systematic Observations Financing Facility.”

For more information: SOFF Secretariat mrepnik@wmo.int

© 2021 Alliance for Hydromet Development