African countries should fully integrate Climate Information Services (CIS) into their policies, plans, programmes and practice, says Ms. Fatima Denton, Economic Commission for Africa’s (ECA) Special Initiatives Division Director. CIS is the integration of ICT into climate monitoring to help provide realtime information on climatic changes that may affect people and environment.
Speaking during the opening session of a recent workshop to mark Climate Information Services Day held in Addis Ababa under the theme ‘Enhancing Uptake and Use of CIS in Development Planning in Africa’, Ms. Denton said CIS has not been sufficiently applied for the reduction of poverty on the continent.
“Few countries in Africa fully integrate CIS into their policy and plans yet countries continue to grapple with negative impacts of season variability and climate change albeit on varying degrees in development sectors and people’s livelihoods,” she said. “We know what the issues in CIS are, and what is needed now is to start walking towards the solutions.”
She said when experts talk about climate information services in Africa, their language is often negative, for example that climate services are not well developed; scientific understanding of the African climate system is limited; and current historical data of different climate variables are either not available or effectively used.
“But there are several reasons why we should be excited about CIS,” said Ms. Denton. “Climate information services prepare users for the weather they will actually experience. Climate services provide climate information in a way that assists decision making by individuals and organisations.”
She said to manage climate-induced impacts, countries must be prepared to invest more in climate information generation and CIS services to enhance climate information generation capacity and effectively use available information in development planning as well as in practice across all sectors of development.
Ms. Denton said the overarching goal of the CIS Day is to provide a continental platform for various stakeholders in CI/CIS, including policy and decision makers, scientists and researchers to deliberate and share experiences and knowledge on how to enhance the uptake and use of climate information services and related issues.
For his part, Joseph Mukabana, Director, Offices for Africa and Least Developed Countries (AFLDC) and African Ministerial Conference on Meteorology (AMCOMET) Secretariat, and World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), in his opening remarks to the workshop said presently there was growing interest in CIS activities on the African continent.
This is because over 60 percent of socio-economic activities on the continent are weather and climate related. Mr. Mukabana said about 90% of all natural disasters on the continent were hydro-meteorological.
“It is also estimated that weather and climate related disasters could cause devastation to property and infrastructure of a country and affect the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 10 – 20 % and could therefore reverse the gains made in economic growth and development,” he said, adding proper use and application of climate services strengthens the ability of rural communities to reduce their vulnerability to extreme weather and climate events.
“To adequately address these extremes requires the involvement of the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services as key stakeholders with a national mandate to observe, forecast, and issue warnings for expected weather, climate, and water threats,” added Mr. Mukabana.
Climate Information Services Day creates awareness to the usefulness of climate services in sustainable development while climate services enhance development opportunities and reduce vulnerability; improving lives of millions of people if well applied; reduce disaster risks through early warning, alerts, advisories and adaptation strategies that build resilience of communities to cope with climate extremes; and enhance socio-economic sectors that can lead to sustainable development, among others.