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Strengthening climate services in South Asia

Regional Workshop aims to improve future climate projections and their applications in South Asia

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Tsho Rolpa Lake in the Rolwaling Valley, Dolakha, Nepal. Credit: Nabin Baral / ICIMOD

South Asia is highly vulnerable to weather and climate impact such as flooding, droughts and cyclones. In the past two decades, over 50 % of South Asians, more than 750 million people have been affected by at least one natural disaster. Vulnerability to both extreme weather events, such as flooding and slow-onset hazards, such as drought, is expected to increase due to both growing populations in vulnerable areas and climate change.

With countries gearing up towards the formulation of national adaptation plans (NAPs) to increase resilience to climate change, information about possible future climate developments and associate changes – changes in temperature, rainfall, wind, and sea level rise – is of utmost interest to decision- and policy-makers for adaptation planning in the region.

Challenges and opportunities associated with the use and uptake of future climate projections in South Asia was the primary premise of a three-day workshop held from 29–31 January in Kathmandu, Nepal. Experts from national meteorological and hydrological institutions, regional entities, research organizations and academia in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and the UK gathered to share their experiences in developing future climate projections specific to the region, and making use of the information produced for policy- and decision-makers.

The regional workshop, organized by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and the Met Office, the UK’s national meteorological service, is part of the UK Aid-funded Asia Regional Resilience to a Changing Climate (ARRCC) programme, a partnership between the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), the Met Office, and the World Bank, that aims to deliver new technologies and innovative approaches to help vulnerable communities use weather warnings and forecasts to better prepare for climate-related shocks.

The four-year programme will target the most vulnerable countries in the region, primarily Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan and will deliver new technologies and innovative approaches to help communities use weather warnings and forecasts to better prepare for climate-related shocks.

Welcoming participants to the workshop, David Molden, Director General at ICIMOD shared that mountains are particularly vulnerable to climate change and the Hindu Kush Himalaya region has been identified as a knowledge gap area. “ICIMOD has been working towards addressing the knowledge gaps related to the region, and is particularly interested in working on climate services. As a regional knowledge organization, ICIMOD provides a wonderful platform for cross country and cross discipline collaboration, and addressing issues that are transboundary in nature.”

Simon Lucas, Team Leader for Inclusive Growth and Resilience Team, DFID in Nepal shared that the ARRCC programme comes at a right juncture to help in getting the information on climate science right, thus enabling better decisions. He added, “If climate challenges are not well understood, it makes it very hard for DFID to help the most vulnerable groups cope. For South Asia in particular, the lives and livelihoods of over 750 million people could be affected. So we need this information as soon as possible to help design future climate support.”

“It’s great to see such a diverse range of participants including both producers and users of climate change information from across the region. This workshop is an important step in developing our priorities and activities under the ARRCC programme,” said David Corbelli, Senior International Development Manager at the Met Office in the UK.

The workshop discussed the application of future climate projections in different socioeconomic sectors, and recommended further strengthening ICIMOD’s Regional Database System to host a complete range of climate projection data.

“Through the ARRCC programme, the Met Office will bring in its expertise to help countries in South Asia to strengthen climate services in the region towards achieving climate resilience”, said Ghulam Rasul, Regional Programme Manager, Mountain Environment Regional Information System (MENRIS) at ICIMOD.

“This workshop provides an exciting opportunity for climate scientists and sector experts from South Asia and the UK to come together and benefit from each other’s knowledge and experience. It is the start of a conversation, which will strengthen important international partnerships and help build climate resilience across the region,” shared Nicola Golding, Urban Climate Services Manager, from the Met Office.

“Climate change represents one of the greatest challenges of our time. Increasing temperatures, rising sea levels, and changing rainfall patterns are having profound impacts on society and the natural world. Yet we have a wealth of scientific evidence and information to help determine appropriate solutions to address the risks of future climate change. This project will enable scientists, practitioners and policymakers to work together to co-develop new tools and knowledge that will benefit communities across South Asia”, said Joseph Daron, International Climate Services Manager, from the Met Office,.

The workshop also served to initiate sustainable and effective user engagement with a selection of users in the region to underpin activities for the rest of the programme. Outputs from the workshop include recommendations for ARRCC Programme activities to enhance the provision and application of climate projections in South Asia. Along with improved regional coordination and cooperation amongst institutions, these activities will ultimately deliver benefits to a range of sectors.

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