Today I have been Guyana for a morning. Yes, the state. The one on the northern mainland of South America, facing the Caribbean Sea. How was that possible? Well, during the plenary of the first “Earth Information Day” ever in the history of COPs, the chair of the opening session invited all the observers in the room to join the seats that are usually reserved to Parties. I must admit it was nice, especially being a researcher in this day dedicated to science at COPn22. The idea of the chair perfectly reflected the spirit of the day: to wide the multilateral process so to engage all stakeholders in ramping up climate action.
The “Earth Information Day” was designed as an opportunity for the scientific community to engage and provide relevant information for the implementation of the Paris Agreement’s goals. The event, hosted by the UNFCCC Secretariat, World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and UNESCO, offered an updated overview of the state of the climate and explored opportunities for supporting decision making on climate action at the regional and national level.
In the opening plenary, Omar Baddour (WMO) presented the key findings of “The Global Climate in 2011–2015”. The report specifically aims at supporting the UNFCCC process by contributing to a better understanding of multiyear warming trends and extreme events. The figures he presented are (expectedly) worrisome. The report confirms the 2011–2015 period as the warmest ever and 2015 as the warmest year (with 2016 on its way to break the record). Artic sea ice continued to decline and mean September sea ice extent fell nearly 30% below then1981- 2010 levels. As for extreme events, the report underscored that sincen2011 the probability of extremes materializing, especially those involving extreme high temperatures, has multiplied even by a factor of 10 in some cases.This highlights the need for urgent climate action and the implication this can have also for the humanitarian and development sectors. To give you an example,the famine hitting the Horn of Africa in 2011- 2012 and leading to more thann250 000 deaths, was triggered by the severe drought of the previous year.Baddour announced the provisional annual statement on climate 2016 to be launched at COP 22 on 14 November.
The plenary also featured the presentation of the recently approved Global Climate Observing System Implementation Plan 2016, which explains the essential climate variables, indicators and actions required to support the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. Works continued in the afternoon with a specific focus on earth observation actions and services to support adaptation in Africa.
The Earth Information Day was a first attempt to strengthen the conversation between science and policy, so to ramp up the implementation of the Paris Agreement. Science played a key role in getting to the Paris Agreement, making the risk of climate inaction very clear. It is now time for it to be taken to a higher level, considering the role it can play in underpinning the formal global stocktake in 2018.