Switzerland has pledged to donate CHF 9m (US$9m) toward an international initiative aimed at strengthening early warning systems in vulnerable low-income countries. The new funding announcement came at the United Nations climate change conference in Katowice, Poland (COP24).
The Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems (CREWS) initiative aims to raise more than US$100m by 2020 to strengthen risk information and early warning systems and to leverage financing to protect populations exposed to extreme climate events. It targets Least Developed Countries (LDC) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), where the risk of loss of life from high-impact events such as floods, droughts and tropical cyclones is disproportionately high. It has been operating in 19 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, and is now set to expand to three more beneficiary nations.
In its efforts to improve resilience, the CREWS initiative conducted an evidence-based assessment of the early warning systems in the Caribbean. This followed a fact-finding mission and systematic review in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, which hit more than 12 island states in the region in 2017.
Brune Poirson, secretary of state, Ministry for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition, France, said, “CREWS has proven, since its inception at COP21, the soundness of its concept – providing early warnings to the vulnerable populations of LDC and SIDS, in order to save their lives and protect their goods.
“The results can already be seen. In Burkina Faso, 600 women farmers have been trained to use climate and weather forecast systems; in DR Congo, flood mapping has been conducted to help poor municipalities prone to flash flooding; in Niger, populations at high risk of flash or river flooding have been identified and a disaster plan has been elaborated; in the Caribbean, the recent field study, in the wake of the 2017 hurricanes, has identified the investment and training gaps that will need to be filled in. CREWS will carry on with its critical task,” added Poirson.
France spearheaded the launch of the CREWS initiative at the Paris Climate Conference in 2015. Switzerland now joins Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands in supporting CREWS, which seeks to enhance capacities of recipient countries, leading to added value and increased sustainability of overall hydrometeorological investments.
Marc Chardonnens, secretary of state and head of the Federal Environmental Office, Switzerland, said, “Switzerland is well aware – from its own experience – that early warning systems call for coordinated and joint efforts. Authorities need to ensure that information reaches people in danger in a timely fashion in order to minimize economic losses and causalities.”
In 2019, CREWS will begin working with three additional countries – Afghanistan, Chad and Togo. These will join the active portfolio including DR Congo, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Papua New Guinea, as well as regional investments in the Pacific islands, the Caribbean and West Africa.
CREWS is being implemented by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction and Recovery, with the support of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.
“It is very important to pay attention to both climate change mitigation and adaptation,” said Petteri Taalas, WMO secretary-general. “Investment in early warning systems is a very powerful way to adapt to climate change. WMO is happy to have been able to contribute to the development of early warning systems in 19 countries so far and we look forward to supporting other countries.”
- January 2019