Weather and climate data for better early warnings

New York, 22 September 2023. The Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF) featured at this week’s United Nations high-level events in New York.

Raising ambition and speed of action – SOFF as an example

The United Nations Climate Ambition Summit took stock of progress achieved on the UN Secretary General’s Early Warnings for All initiative (EW4All) that aims at ensuring that everyone on Earth is protected through life-saving early warning systems by 2027. 

Many voices called for raised ambition and speed of action. SOFF is an example for it.  As a new UN specialized climate fund, SOFF opened its doors for business in July 2022 to support countries in closing the major basic weather and climate data gaps. Funding for the first group of countries was approved in March 2023, today 59 countries are receiving SOFF support, and additional 38 countries have requested funding and technical assistance.

At the Climate Ambition Summit, H.E Khadeeja Naseem, Minister of State for Environment, Climate Change and Technology of the Maldives welcomed the establishment of SOFF. Maldives is among the first countries that received SOFF support. Closing the country’s basic weather and climate data gaps will create both global and local benefits: Globally, Maldives will contribute to fill important data gaps of the Global Basic Observing Network (GBON) in the Indian Ocean. Locally, SOFF will lead to better local forecasts and create the foundation for effective early warnings, the most effective way to adapt to the rapidly changing climate.

Delegates during the session on “Delivering climate justice: Accelerating ambition and implementation on adaptation and early warnings for all” at the Climate Ambition Summit. (c) IISD/ENB | Diego Noguera

At the margins of the United Nations General Assembly, Denmark and Bangladesh co-hosted an international dialogue on the ways forward for adaptation, putting an emphasis on doubling adaptation finance. H.E. Toeolesulusulu Cedric Pose Salesa Schuster, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Samoa, and Christina Chan, Senior Adaptation Advisor to the United States Presidential Special Envoy on Climate, highlighted the significant potential of SOFF as an indispensable component of adaptation programs.

Multilateral Development Banks backing the EW4All initiative and serving as SOFF Implementing Entities

At the Climate Ambition Summit, the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) issued a joint statement and committed to join forces in support of the EW4All initiative and to enhance coordination, improve efficiency and scale up action. Several MDBs are acting as SOFF Implementing Entities. SOFF has a unique approach in bringing together advanced national meteorological offices to provide technical assistance and UN organizations and MDBs to support countries in closing the weather and climate data gaps. 

In Africa, the African Development Bank (AfDB) is a major SOFF Implementing Entity. Akinwumi Adesina, AfDB President, stated the Bank’s full support to the EW4All initiative and SOFF at the Climate Ambition Summit. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) serves as SOFF Implementing Entity. At the “Delivering Early Warnings for All” event co-hosted by the Alliance of Small Island States, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), Juan Pablo Bonilla, IADB Manager Climate Change and Sustainable Development, stated the bank’s intent to combine and leverage SOFF resources with IADB resources for impactful early warning investments.

Closing the SOFF funding gap

Karin Isaksson, Managing Director of the Nordic Development Fund, speaking at the “Delivering Early Warnings for All” event in New York. (c) NDF | Mayra Da Silva

Also at the “Delivering Early Warnings for All” event, Karin Isaksson, Managing Director of the Nordic Development Fund (NDF) and Member of the UN Early Warnings for All advisory panel said, “Investing in SOFF means investing in a global public good as it provides benefits at local, regional, and global level.” NDF was the first contributor to the SOFF UN Fund, in the meantime 11 funders have pledged contributions to the SOFF UN fund totalling USD 72 million

Finland is among the SOFF funders, and Pasi Hellmann, Under-Secretary of State for International Development, emphasized the country’s strong support to the EW4All initiative, the Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems (CREWS) initiative and to SOFF, highlighting the importance of SOFF as “warnings are only as good as the data they are built upon”.

The EW4All Action plan, launched by the UN Secretary-General at COP27, requires SOFF funding in the amount of 400 million USD. There is an urgent need to close the SOFF funding gap in order to close today’s massive data gaps. Ms Isaksson concluded by saying “We invite financiers to act now, we need more than your moral support, we need that you open your pockets for SOFF to support countries in providing the data needed”. Prof Petteri Taalas, WMO Secretary General, added that “more resources are required to build early warnings for all and to save lives”.


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 aquisition 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 (EW4All): The initiative and its Executive Action Plan was launched by the UN Secretary-General in November 2022 at the COP27 meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh. 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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Markus Repnik