Tackling the weather and climate data gap despite a funding gap – successful 8th Steering Committee

  • SOFF UN fund mobilized US-Dollars 94 million within the first two years of operation, including additional USD 14.7 million contributions from Austria, Belgium, Iceland, and the Nordic Development Fund (NDF).
  • USD 13.2 million Investment funding approved for Chad and Uganda. Five additional Investment funding requests were provisionally approved upon additional SOFF resource mobilization.
  • Niue, Cook Islands, Guinea and Sierra Leone programmed to receive SOFF support, in total already 66 countries to benefit from SOFF. 35 additional countries requested support.
  • Urgency to close SOFF funding gap. SOFF resource mobilization is not at par with countries’ delivery pace and demand. US-Dollars 106 million funding gap by June 2025.
  • Dr. Sinead Walsh, Climate Director at Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs, appointed as Co-Chair of the SOFF Steering Committee

Speedy work to tackle basic weather and climate data gap

SOFF is delivering at speed and scale. Since June 2022, when SOFF opened its doors, already 66 countries are programmed to work with SOFF. The latest four, Niue, Cook Islands, Guinea and Sierra Leone have been approved at the 8th SOFF Steering Committee meeting (Decision 8.7).

20 countries have already completed the first phase, called “Readiness”. Supported by advanced national meteorological offices that serve as SOFF peer advisors, they assessed their hydromet capacity gaps and prepared plans on how to close their basic weather and climate data gaps. These national hydrometeorological services provide a basis for effective climate adaptation and resilience action. A summary of this information is captured in the Hydromet Gap Report 2024, launched at the 8th Steering Committee meeting.

With Chad and Uganda now approved, in total 13 countries have moved to the second phase, the SOFF Investment phase. This means they receive grants and technical assistance to increase human and infrastructural capacity. A total amount of USD 79.6 million is approved to support SOFF Investment phase operations in countries. Chad will receive approx. USD 7 million and Uganda USD 6.3 million (Decision 8.4.1). SOFF investments in these countries contribute to the collection and international exchange of scientifically unique weather and climate data, contributing to a global public good by improving forecasting capacities globally.

Upon completion of this Investment phase, countries will be in line with the Global Basic Observation Network (GBON) requirements.

Uganda is part of the Water at the Heart of Climate Action initiative. SOFF is used as the basis to inform all stages of the value chain, supporting the achievement of Early Warnings for All. Due to the country’s location in a severely under-observed and conflict-afflicted area, Uganda can show high leverage.

Chad is a great example of SOFF’s approach to sustainability: A gap of 33 weather stations had been identified. However, 27 can be updated and repaired, therefore only 6 new are needed to become GBON compliant. “The timing of SOFF investment comes at a critical moment. Past investments require urgent interventions, upgrades, and improvements to ensure sustainability for the future,” says Giora Gershtein, Geosphere Austria, acting as SOFF peer advisor to Chad. With the World Food Programme as the Implementing Entity, the work of SOFF will be aligned with investments in anticipatory action and disaster preparedness in this fragile context.

Interim approach to continue ambition despite funding gap

SOFF is facing a high demand from countries. Not only are 35 countries not yet programmed, but several are waiting for approval to start investments. For the first time, the SOFF Steering Committee was not able to immediately approve all tabled funding requests due to a lack of financial resources available.

To address the high-country demand a strategic approach to managing Investment phase funding requests has been decided (Decision 8.4.2). This prioritizes investments expected to yield the largest results in global numerical weather prediction, while also ensuring their sustainability by building on prior or ongoing investments in these nations. This effort operationalizes the framework for collaboration signed with Adaptation Fund, Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems initiative, Climate Investments Fund, Green Climate Fund, and Global Environment Facility at COP28.

Additional pledges of USD 15 million to the SOFF UN fund have made more funding approvals possible. However, more action is needed. For increased mobilization of resources, the Steering Committee has agreed to an Updated Resource Mobilization and Outreach Strategy and Action Programme (Decision 8.2). The 29th UN-Climate Change Conference COP29 in November 2024 will be yet another milestone for systematic observations and SOFF resource mobilization (INF 8.6).

Future brings collaboration and action

Upon availability of additional SOFF funding, the committee provisionally approved investments in five additional countries: Madagascar, Timor-Leste, Samoa, Nauru and Malawi (INF 8.3). Together the 13 already Investment approved countries plus the tentatively approved ones represent 29% of the GBON Gap for surface stations and 28% for upper air stations of Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States.

Regarding SOFF’s governance, Dr. Sinead Walsh, Climate Director at Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs, has been nominated as new Co-Chair of the SOFF Steering Committee representing the funders. This follows the Nordic Development Fund co-chairing with WMO for two years.

The Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) joins the SOFF Advisory Board. GCOS is a critical actor on international climate observation development and an important partner to SOFF that can strengthen SOFF positioning with the UNFCCC and ensure SOFF results are fully leveraged by climate information users.

About

Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF)

SOFF is a UN specialized fund co-created by WMO, UNDP and UNEP to close the climate and weather observations data gap in countries with the most severe shortfalls in observations, prioritizing Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and SIDS. SOFF provides long term financial and technical assistance to support the acquisition and international sharing of basic weather and climate observations, according to the internationally agreed Global Basic Observing Network (GBON) regulations. SOFF is a foundational element and delivery vehicle of the UN Early Warnings for All Initiative.

Global Basic Observing Network (GBON)

GBON paves the way for a radical overhaul of the international exchange of observational data, which underpins all weather, climate and water services and products. GBON sets the requirements for the acquisition and exchange of basic surface-based observing network designed, defined and monitored at the global level. GBON will improve the availability of the most essential surface-based data, which will have a direct positive impact on the quality of weather forecasts, thus helping improve the safety and well-being of citizens throughout the world.

Early Warnings for All initiative

The initiative and its Executive Action Plan was launched by the UN Secretary-General in November 2022 at the COP27. The Initiative calls for the whole world to be covered by an early warning system by the end of 2027. Early Warnings for All is co-led by WMO and UNDRR and supported by pillar leads ITU and IFRC. Implementing partners include FAO, OCHA, UNDP, UNEP, UNESCO, REAP, and WFP, among other partners. SOFF and CREWS are delivery vehicles of this initiative.

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