By Makereta Komai, PACNEWS Editor in Sharm El Sheikh

The Canadian Government has renewed its CAD10 million climate risk early warning system (CREWS) that will benefit a number of Pacific Island Countries meteorological services in the next four years.

Canadian Minister for Environment, Honorable Steven Guilbeault made the announcement at a COP27 side event here in Sharm El Sheikh on Friday 11 November.

The continuation of funding recognises the milestone achievements made by National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (MNHS) services in Asia, the Pacific and Caribbean whose representatives shared the unique community based early warning systems they are implementing that’s saving lives in their communities during weather related events. At the Side Event, Niue and Tonga Met Services represented the Pacific.

In Niue, the Met Service has worked through the church, Ekalesia Niue to use the Boys and Girls brigade to train and advocate for community risks and early warning systems.

Met Services director, Rossy Mitiepo said the idea was to engage with the communities right down to the grassroots level – and get them to understand and support high level government strategies and also at village level.

“Through this partnership with the initial funding support from CREWS, the Met service conducted valuable training to the members of the Boys and Girls’ Brigade. They learned of the different terminologies associated with climate science, the weather, early warnings, and disaster preparedness, and we were then able to go back to our communities and share this knowledge with the rest of our people, said Mitiepo.

One of the activities they undertook was the developing of billboards to raise awareness on different aspects of the weather. Through this activity, the young people learned about the different strengths of cyclones and the colour-coding system used by the Niue Met Service to classify tropical cyclones. They were also able to learn about the El Ninõ-Southern Oscillation and other areas related to weather and climate.

Tonga’s volcanic island of Tofua, located in the Ha’apai group is isolated with no communication at all to the rest of Tonga. The island has an active volcano with a small community of kava farmers.

Met Service director, Ofa Fa’anunu said the island was chosen for a VHF radio to be installed because of significant interest to the island kingdom.

“There are 100 farmers who grow kava there and stay on the island for six months outside of the cyclone system. They produce 40 tonnes of kava valued at USD$2 million annually. There is no communication at all with the rest of Tonga on the islands.

“If something happens on the island, they light a fire to alert the neighbouring islands to send a boat for help, said Fa’anunu.

Photo: SPREP

 He said they have also installed a multi-hazard warning system that’s linked to the Met office to allow them to track activity of the active volcano.

Canada’s funding recognises that developing countries in Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific are especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and increasing severe weather events.

“People need information early so they can take steps to prepare, said Canada’s Environment Minister, Honorable Steven Guilbeault when he spoke at the side event on Strengthening Multi-Hazard Warning Systems.

He renewed Canada’s commitment with $10 million funding over four years to support the improvement of early warning systems in developing countries, particularly in small island developing states.

The Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems initiative was first launched at COP21 in 2015 by the Government of France in response to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. At that time, Canada supported the initiative with an initial commitment of $10 million to the World Meteorological Organisation for the project Building Resilience to High-Impact Hydro-Meteorological Events through Strengthening Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems in Small Island Development States and Southeast Asia.

Canada’s funding of Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems has strengthened Early Warning Systems’ capacity in many small island developing states and Southeast Asia. In total, through Canada’s contribution to Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems;

  • Thirty-five countries strengthened their capacity related to early warning systems.
  • More than 150 National Meteorological and Hydrological Services staff were trained in a wide range of activities, including impact-based forecasting, severe weather, flash floods, common alerting protocol, regional climate data, and analysis and projections.
  • Fourteen countries developed national strategies and frameworks for weather, water, and climate services.
  • Twelve countries conducted national assessments of multi-hazard early warning systems.
  • Nine countries developed “Met Bills”, providing legal mandates for their National Meteorological and Hydrological Services.
  • Three regional and three national impact-based forecasting workshops and training sessions were held.
  • Four community-based Early Warning Systems were developed.
  • National Meteorological and Hydrological Services received assistance to participate in regional and national climate outlook forums in all three geographic areas.