Remarks on the opening session of two back-to-back events

Tahseen Sayed, Country Manager, Albania Remarks on the opening session of two back-to-back events:
Promotion of the Albanian Strategy for Services Development of the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHS), October 17, 2016 and Regional Stakeholders Workshop to implement the WMO Strategy for Service Delivery for NMHSs in South-East Europe, October 18 - 21, 2016

 

Dear Director of the Institute of GeoSciences, Energy, Water and Environment, Mr. Hoxhaj, representatives from Albanian agencies and ministries, guests from South East Europe: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia, representatives from development partners, in particular the World Meteorological Organization, and participants

The two events this week are highly relevant in today’s world where we are witnessing new climate patterns and significant economic, social and environmental consequences of weather extremes. It is essential to improve national services in order to inform decision-making in weather and climate risk management.

Two years ago, a World Bank Group report titled “Turn down the heat”, indicated that dramatic climate changes and weather extremes of today, would become the “new climate normal,” in the future. This is a global phenomenon – the devastation caused this month in Haiti by Hurricane Matthew is before us – with almost 500 people dead and hundreds missing, as per UN estimates. Countries in Southeastern Europe have also suffered due to their high vulnerability to extreme weather events. We saw this during the 2014 floods in Serbia and BiH that played havoc with the livelihoods of the population and depressed economic growth. The Government of Serbia’s post-disaster needs assessment, supported by the EU, UN and World Bank, showed that the damage in Serbia was about euro1.5 billion, with over 70 percent in productive sectors. In BiH, a similar assessment showed that floods were estimated to have caused nearly the equivalent of 15 percent of GDP in damages and losses. The impact on the population was enormous with thousands evacuated and suffering economic and personal losses. It has taken over two years for economic growth to rebound in the aftermath of the floods.

In Albania, the 2015 floods were a stark reminder of the country’s vulnerability to extreme weather events. Changing weather patterns have already been observed in Albania over the last 15 years with increasing temperatures, decreasing precipitation, and more frequent extreme events like floods and droughts. Climate projections indicate a significant decline in summer rainfalls (of about 10% by 2020 and 20% by 2050), which will have major impacts on sectors such as water resources, agriculture and energy.

The impacts of these changing weather patterns affect economic growth due to reduction or loss of productivity and infrastructure damages. According to World Bank estimations, a 100-year flood in Albania would result in damages equaling about 6% of GDP. Following the Albania floods in 2015, the government-led assessment, supported by the World Bank, UN and EU, found that they caused EUR 110 million in damages and losses.

 

While these dramatic climate changes and weather extremes are already affecting millions of lives, the encouraging news is that solutions exist to help avoid or mitigate these shocks. Countries are becoming more aware to put in place the necessary risk management mechanisms before a natural disaster hits. The World Bank is working in close partnership with countries across the globe, and with development partners to assist in this area.

In Albania, the World Bank has since 2008 supported efforts to strengthen civil protection, early warning, building codes and risk financing through the Albania Disaster Risk Mitigation and Adaption Project (AL-DRMAP) and follow-on project Reducing Risk and Building Resilience. As part of this assistance we are involved in the modernization of the national hydrometerological services. In 2008 the World Bank estimated that every $1 invested in modernizing the national hydrometerological services of Albania would result in at least $2 and more likely $4 to $7 in socioeconomic benefits from reduced disaster losses and better optimized production in weather-sensitive sectors such as agriculture, water resources management and energy. This still holds today as extreme weather events become more frequent and intense.

We worked with IGEWE to strengthen the institution across the hydrometeorological service delivery chain including installing 40 automatic weather stations, digitizing historical data to support climate analytics, and providing on-the-job forecasting coaching. A key element of the support to IGEWE and its partners has been to support development of a service delivery strategy that you will discuss today.

 

Our global experience and collaboration with international partners demonstrates that a comprehensive and cross-sectoral approach is required to better prepare the country and its citizens to deal with weather extremes and adapt to climate. The first key requirement is availability of necessary information for critical decision-makers who manage weather and climate risks. These include formal authorities, general public, or commercial interests. Second, closer coordination among the weather and climate service providers and their users is essential for supporting the sustainability of services. Third, actionable weather and climate services must be used to inform mitigation and adaptation decision-making and planning. Fourth, I must underscore that weather and climate services require sufficient annual budget for operations and maintenance to ensure that the benefits of this public good are realized.

We hope the service delivery strategy will contribute towards moving forward on the core areas I highlighted above. Developing a strategy is necessary but not sufficient. It is essential to implement it systematically with necessary technical expertise, coordination and provision of required budget and resources.

The excellent guidance on strategic development of service delivery produced by World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has been complemented by the peer-to-peer learning and coaching that Austrian Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG) provided during this process. We hope that ZAMG also benefitted from this exchange, and that this engagement continues to support Albania to integrate in and benefit more from the European meteorological infrastructure.

The purpose of this week’s event is for our guests from South East Europe to share and learn from your experiences as well as the Albanian experience that has benefited from Austrian support. This effort is being replicated not only in the region, but also around the globe.

I understand that two weeks ago many of you, your colleagues and other hydrometeorological services met in Zagreb to kick off the South East European Multi-Hazard Early Warning Advisory System. We fully support this regionally-owned effort to improve early warning by leveraging regional and global systems and expertise for improving performance and cost efficiency.

We expect that the improved and new services this regional effort will deliver will be informed by and integrated into your national service delivery strategies to ensure they inform domestic decision-making in weather and climate risk management leading to better risk management and preparedness.

Before I conclude I would like to thank in particular, Dr. Fatos Hoxhaj, Director of the Institute of GeoSciences, Energy, Water and Environment (IGEWE), for hosting the event. I would also like to thank our development partners for the excellent collaboration and especially the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the Austrian Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG).

I wish you a successful exchange of experiences and learning, and look forward to seeing stronger and more effective hydrometeorological services throughout the region and of course, in Albania. 

 







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