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WCC-3: Global ‘climate services’ framework agreed, but long process ahead

Heads of state agreed yesterday in Geneva to establish a global framework to deliver climate services to society. “We agreed on the need for climate services across all nations”, says Martin Visbeck, chair of the committee of scientific experts to the World Climate Conference.

The global framework will oversee the supply of demand-driven climate data to end-users such as farmers to water-resource managers, with the ultimate aim of aiding adaptation to climate change. Climate services would particularly help developing nations, for example, many of which lack access to the weather and climate observations needed to plan their global-warming adaptation strategies.

But the implementation of such services will face several political and scientific hurdles. Over the next four months, an independent task force set up by World Meteorological Organization, which convened the conference, will work out how to make this vision a reality. An arduous 12-month consultation process with signatory nations will then follow.

I’ve reported this for Nature News in full here. The news story covers the scientific challenges ahead in moving from climate ‘projections’ to decadal scale ‘predictions’, and also looks at the issue of data sharing, which will be require some careful negotiating over the coming months.

Ultimately, delegates expressed optimism about the vision agreed in Geneva this week, but there are concerns about how tough its implementation will be. According to Visbeck, the deal was much stronger on Tuesday, but “an unfortunate negotiation” meant that a couple of keys aspects were changed late in the day. One crucial change is that WMO is now ‘convening’ the implementation strategy rather than leading on it. Lacking one organization at the helm, the process of decision making could become that much harder. Secondly, a clause was added that says to all UN member states can weigh on each stage of the implementation plan before the final report is delivered to WMO in January 2011. “We didn’t achieve the maximum achievable”, says Visbeck.

In the meantime, however nations are charging ahead with implementing serivice-oriented climate science on their own steam. In July, Germany opened a national climate services centre in Hamburg, and the US is currently discussing plans for a national climate service in Congress and among relevant agencies.

Olive Heffernan

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