What needs to come together in order to get a timely rainfall forecast to Senegalese farmers for the growing season? How can meteorologists in Rwanda ensure that their data and analyses benefit local populations? The USAID-sponsored Learning Agenda on Climate Services has examined and elevated the concept of climate services as a holistic system that connects stakeholders, such as farmers and meteorologists. During its final workshop in Washington, D.C., attendees shared perspectives on effective delivery, uptake and use of climate services, as well as priority areas for future research, investment and programming. Three overarching messages emerged from the workshop presentations and discourse.
1) User-centered design methodologies need to be better synthesized and shared.
To better serve users of climate information services (CIS), it is critical to identify relevant users, understand those users’ needs, and develop CIS that meets the intended users’ needs. The Climate Information Services Research Initiative organized key knowledge gaps about CIS users and their needs into a coherent set of questions for further research and proposed what is needed to answer or fill those gaps in knowledge.
Pilots of a new participatory systems mapping approach for CIS showed the potential to bring actors together from across the system – ranging from farmers to national meteorological services. The resulting dialogue can identify blockages in information flows and build trust among stakeholders. It can also establish consensus around practical solutions to improve the effectiveness of the system.
2) Strengthened partnerships and enhanced coordination of investment in climate services are key to deliver global priorities.
Stakeholders across sectors can form partnerships to help drive improvements in the CIS system. Donors and governments should coordinate more closely and look across their entire portfolio for opportunities to strengthen the CIS system and create partnerships. National coordination can be improved via national frameworks for climate services under the World Meteorological Organization Global Framework for Climate Services. Regional climate outlook forums maintained by the WMO strengthen delivery of consensus-based, user-relevant climate outlook products at regional level.
Some prominent examples of collaboration include: the WMO Public Private Engagement Framework, the Global Weather Enterprise multi-stakeholder initiative, the WMO-World Bank Hydromet Alliance, and the WMO-GCF Memorandum of Understanding. As new partnerships form, they will be well-served by more research and dissemination of lessons that emerged from the workshop.
3) Public-private partnerships can strengthen CIS production.
The private sector can help improve CIS outcomes, but important issues are raised, such as data access and exchange (including the public’s right to access basic climate data/services) and revenue-sharing between National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHS) and the private sector. Private sector involvement is a major focus for the WMO, and their Public-Private Engagement Policy Framework should create a level playing field for NMHSs and the private sector and outline equitable ‘rules of engagement’.
Moving forward with a system approach to CIS
Taking CIS forward in a way that best serves the communities facing risk will hinge upon a holistic, systems-based approach that uses a portfolio of investments to improve services. We must remember the complex, context-specific nature of CIS, and that the mandates of NMHSs vary from country to country, as do the risks, needs and vulnerabilities of communities. The production, delivery and use of CIS involve multiple processes including interpretation, access and application, with numerous factors affecting each of these processes. Climate information systems and interventions to improve them should be tailored to specific regional and national circumstances with particular focus on capacity-building and improved procedures. This is a key to achieving sustainability.
The Moving Climate Services Forward: a Systems Perspective workshop was hosted by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), WMO, and the World Bank. More than 70 individuals attended the workshop in-person and 50 participated remotely.
Read more on the topics mentioned above:
- Climate Information Climate Information for Those Who Need It Most: Contributions of a Participatory Systems Mapping Approach in Niger
- Participatory Climate Information Services Systems Mapping in Senegal
- Identifying Climate Information Services Users and Their Needs in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Learning Agenda
Improving data integration and the functioning of CIS systems
The public-private engagement landscape in CIS in Sub-Saharan Africa:
Olga Krylova is a climate project support officer at the World Meteorological Organization. She holds MSc in Environmental Change and Management, University of Oxford. She has over 8 years of national and international experience with the EEAS, European Commission, on the EU-Russia environment, climate change, and energy policy dialogues; WFP community-based adaptation projects; FAO conference and protocol, among others. Her interests include public administration and climate policy/traditional ecological knowledge.
Robert O’Sullivan manages the Sustainable Climate Information Services project for Winrock International and is director of Winrock’s Policy, Markets and Finance unit. He is a senior climate change and land use expert with over 15 years of multidisciplinary experience covering climate change law, policy, finance and the carbon market.
Ali Blumenstock is a program manager with the Mercy Corps Environment Technical Support Unit, where she provides technical support and thought leadership in climate change adaptation, while also supporting the organization’s COVID-19 response efforts in water, sanitation, and hygiene. She has over 8 years of experience working with development and advocacy organizations across the United States and around the world in the fields of conservation, climate change adaptation, and environmental justice. She holds a Master’s in Global Human Development from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.