Abu Dhabi: Meteorology experts and delegates from various countries across Asia came together on March 13, in Abu Dhabi, for a World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) conference hosted by UAE’s National Center of Meteorology (NCM).
The Regional Conference (RECO) of WMO’s Regional Association II (Asia), the conference will continue until March 16 and is expected to be attended by over 150 weather officials and representatives from 19 countries.
During the three-day conference, officials aim to discuss and analyse the socio-economic impact of climate change and weather. They will also look at the high payoff of investments in weather and climate services and solutions in terms of lives saved, property protected, and economic gains achieved.
Recent impact of climate change
In his opening statement, Dr Abdulla Al Mandous, Director General of the NCM, and President of the Regional Association II (Asia) said: “The year 2022 was yet another reminder that Asia is the world’s most disaster-prone region. The major disasters of 2022 fell across the development spectrum, from floods in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Thailand; drought in China, heatwaves in India, Japan, and Pakistan, to earthquakes in Afghanistan.
“Floods were the deadliest, accounting for 75 per cent of disaster events in the region and 89 per cent of total deaths globally.”
“We are aware of how climate change impacts are wreaking an ever-increasing human, financial and environmental toll, worsening food security and poverty and holding back sustainable development in Asia,” added Dr Al Mandous.
With 4.7 billion people, Asia accounts for 60 per cent of the world’s population.
"In 2021 alone, weather and climate related hazards caused a damage of $35.6 billion (Dh130.7 billion) affecting nearly 50 million people in Asia," Dr Al Mandous added.
He said that the Regional Conference of RA II (Asia) is a crucial platform to discuss the members’ collective efforts to enhance the region's early warning systems and improve resilience in the face of emerging weather and climate-related hazards.
Petri Taalas, WMO Secretary-General, told Gulf News: “We saw very dramatic flooding events in Asia, which was a consequence of climate change. Because of climate change, we have started seeing these kinds of stagnant weather conditions more often, which means that the high-pressure systems may stay in the same place.
“That's what happened in China. Last summer we had a heat wave and drought, which caused lots of damage to agriculture. And, at the same time, these low-pressure areas were moving along the same tracks day by day and that was causing a flooding problem in Pakistan where one-third of the country was flooded. Globally, this was a very dramatic event. We have seen the speeding up of the melting of mountain glaciers in Central Asia, including the Himalayan glaciers. This will mean a decrease in water availability, maybe worse in China, India, and Vietnam, where Himalayan glaciers are the source of water.”
UAE’s advanced weather systems
Taalas added: “WMO is like a family organisation, where we are freely accessing data and technical know-how. The most advanced countries including Japan, China, and South Korea, who have state-of-the-art weather services are sharing their know-how and helping other countries to improve their service capabilities.
“The UAE also has very advanced weather services and can contribute with their expertise to support many other countries. We are also seeking a strong endorsement of the COP28 that will be hosted in the UAE (November 30 to December 12, 2023).”
Dr Al Mandous added: “Hosting this regional event demonstrates NCM’s prominent role in promoting national and regional capacity development, data exchange, and research collaboration to develop more accurate and reliable weather forecasting models.
“By working together across borders, we aim to develop more effective and comprehensive strategies for mitigating the impacts of extreme weather events. This will ultimately improve the ability and preparedness of our countries to predict and respond to severe weather events and reduce their impact on lives, livelihoods, and properties.”
Dr Al Mandous was named by the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC) as the UAE’s official candidate for the presidency of WMO.
His campaign will focus on accelerating an internationally coordinated action to achieve UN Secretary-General’s request to ensure that ‘every person on Earth is protected by Early Warning Systems in the next five years’. The United Nations launched the executive action plan for the ‘Early warning for All’ initiative during the last COP27 meeting, which has gained significant momentum recently as part of the ongoing global efforts to tackle the impact of climate change.
Joining the conference digitally, Mami Mizutori, representing the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction added that the initiative will be a success only if developed and developing countries join hands. She said: “I urge all of us to ensure the development of early warning systems… it is no longer an option, but a must. Survival of our one and only planet depends on it.”
On the first day of the conference, participants included permanent representatives of WMO (Members from Asia), and key representatives of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), and United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).