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Working together for a resilient future

The UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) reflect the key aims of the Met Office to increase protection, prosperity and well-being - and our international activity often supports UN development objectives.

In 2000, the United Nations hosted a Millennium Summit with the aim of defining a blueprint for action, agreed by all the world's countries and leading development institutions, to galvanise efforts to stop or reduce a range of development challenges. This summit culminated in the creation of eight development goals with targets designed to support action from 'halving extreme poverty' to 'halting the spread of HIV/ AIDS', with the end date of 2015.

While the Millennium Development Goals are acknowledged to have made huge positive strides - for example, global poverty continues to decline and investment to fight malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis is saving millions - the results of a two year UN member led review highlighted the need for governments and development agencies to shift towards a 'sustainable' approach to development.

'Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development' consists of 17 goals which extend beyond the original goals and address new challenges which we face as a global community. For example, number 13 is a call to 'take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.'

From aid to ownership

The UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) reflect the key aims of the Met Office to increase protection, prosperity and well-being - and our international activity often supports UN development objectives.

"Key to this [new approach] was the idea of moving away from development programmes as aid," explains Nyree Pinder, Senior International Development Manager at the Met Office, "but rather as a means to empowerment. Countries can and should take ownership of development initiatives to understand how they can invest their resources in future to drive their own progress."

Built around the number one goal 'No poverty' - a top priority shared by the World Bank, other development banks and aid agencies - the 17 SDGs (see panel) take an empowerment angle that also aims to target hunger, health, education, gender equality, water, climate and more. Ratified by the UN in September 2015, the goals represent an action plan focused on five pillars - People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership. These integrate the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.

With poverty, hunger, health and well-being so closely linked to the impacts of weather and climate events, the Met Office and National Meteorological and Hydrological Service partners have a key part to play in helping ensure the SDGs are another UN development success.

"There is nothing more important than communicating with people and organisations in hazard prone areas to ensure they are fully informed in a timely manner, to take action to protect life and livelihoods and assets," says Margareta Wahlstrom, previously Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction.

"Meteorological and climate services have a pivotal role in delivering this information from Early Warning Systems through to longer term climate adaptation advice for planning and anticipation for resilience. They are a crucial delivery mechanism for supporting UN global policies and standards such as the Sendai Framework for Action, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Climate Agreement. It is essential that Governments bring these national services squarely into their National Decision making processes."

Bringing the SDGs into focus

2015 marked an important year for global sustainable development not just because of the introduction of the SDGs, but also due to two other events; the UN's Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction agreed in March and the agreement on climate change agreed at the United Nations climate conference (COP21) held in Paris in December.

"Paris provided a great opportunity to understand how these critical global policies interconnect," explains Nyree Pinder. "For example, participants came to understand that Disaster Risk Reduction straddles both immediate severe weather events and longer term climate adaptation development approaches. So it is essential targets from the Sendai Framework are also connected to those of the SDGs and the Paris Agreement for improved resilience across all timescales."

The ability to predict weather and climate events is essential expertise which connects to many of the targets indicated in the SDGs. The Met Office understands the importance of continuing to evolve its portfolio to support meteorological and climate services partners to deliver these targets.

Empowerment in action

Many of the Met Office international projects have involved long term engagement to support the development of our partner National Meteorological and Hydrological Services and enhance sustainability. The 15-year relationship with Rwanda's Meteorological Service is a particularly good example of this. The project began with a partnership between Meteo Rwanda and the Met Office (through the UK contribution to the WMO Voluntary Cooperation Programme) which included installing a TV presentation studio in Rwanda (a useful project to improve the visibility of a met service within a country), training, and grant funding from the UK to embed a Met Office expert at Meteo Rwanda to understand their challenges and the opportunities for their development.

Met Office then worked with Meteo Rwanda to submit a proposal to the (United Nations Development Programme) UNDP for an Early Warning System (EWS) pilot in a specific region of the country. Following the success of this programme the Rwandan government recognised the importance of directing development funds to specifically invest in Meteo Rwanda so they can continue to improve their services to the public. This will inevitably impact the country's economic and social prospects for the better.

"The Rwanda project demonstrates exactly the approach the SDGs are advocating and there is growing recognition in the development community that sustainability is more achievable through long term consistent engagement," says Nyree.

Ending poverty is half the battle

The Rwandan programme delivers against many key SDGs. By reducing loss of life and danger to valuable livestock, the EWS contributes to the 'prime mover' Goal 1 ('End poverty'). In turn, this supports goals 2 ('Zero hunger') and 3 ('Good health and well-being'). By understanding the local importance of women in protecting homes and livestock - the work also supports Goal 5 ('Gender equality').

The gender goal is a key priority for development agencies such as the UK's Department for International Development (DFID), the Nordic Development Fund and the World Bank who understand this is not a standalone but a cross cutting issue. The Met Office aims to share best practice from its own gender equality initiatives, both at national level through the Met Office Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) ambassadors speaking in schools on the importance for girls to have access to the academic streams; and also through our development activity in ensuring our 'user focussed' activity is inclusive.

We are still learning how we can improve our own approach to gender equality and will continue to engage with our partners in the meteorological and development communities to share knowledge and improve. Our work with Meteo Rwanda encompassed an understanding of the importance of engaging with women as 'users' of weather and climate information.

The Government of Rwanda's investment into their Meteorological service to improve to weather and climate understanding across sectors is a good baseline to embedding these services into long term strategic plans, such as National Climate Adaptation Plans or Frameworks. There is therefore potential here for Meteo Rwanda to deliver in future to the targets of Goal 11 ('Sustainable Cities and Communities') and Goal 13 ('Climate Action').

One world, one shared purpose

Rwanda is just one project which shows how Met Office activity harmonises with the UN SDGs (see the box out for examples of others). As the goals continue to focus governments and other development organisations over the next 15 years, they will continue to inform and guide the Met Office's future strategy.

For Met Office Chief Scientist Julia Slingo, the significance of meteorological and climate services engagement to enable the global community to deliver to the targets of the SDGs cannot be overstated: "We have made significant strides in our ability to predict weather and climate events in recent years, and much of our ongoing international work maps onto the SDGs. This highlights the role that weather and climate science and services have in saving lives and livelihoods, which is at the heart of everything we do in the Met Office."

On target

Met Office projects embracing UN SDGs extend from Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore and the Philippines to South Africa, Rwanda and Kenya as well as the developed world. The selection below reflects their diversity:

Strengthening Adaptation and Resilience to

Climate Change in Kenya (StARCK): SDG 13: 'CLIMATE ACTION'

This multi-partner project organised through the DFID-funded ADA Consortium aims to boost food security in five arid and semi-arid areas of Kenya by working with the Kenyan Met Service to disseminate climate information in a user friendly format to help vulnerable communities to better plan their planting and other agri-activities. Longer term, the objective is to help affected countries access climate finance to fund adaptation initiatives themselves.

Hunger and Climate Vulnerability Index:

SDGS 2: 'ZERO HUNGER' and 13: 'CLIMATE ACTION'

This pioneering website - at www.metoffice.gov.uk/food-insecurity-index - was launched at Paris COP21. It enables governments and organisations to explore how different scenarios of global greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation to climate change could alter the geography of food insecurity in developing and least-developed countries. Partners include the Met Office Hadley Centre and the World Food Programme. Find out more about food insecurity and climate change.

Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) in Environmental

Change and Health: SDG 3: 'GOOD HEALTH AND WELL-BEING'

Led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in partnership with Public Health England, this unit brings together experts across disciplines - including the Met Office - to explore possible impacts around three key themes: climate resilience, healthy cities, and health and natural environment. One of 13 funded HPRUs, this is the first of its kind to focus on environmental change in public health.

Renewable energy services:

SDG 7: 'AFFORDABLE and CLEAN ENERGY'

Met Office renewable energy services support onshore and offshore wind, as well as solar energy initiatives - using data to optimise infrastructure location in the UK, Europe and potentially as far afield as Myanmar.

Memorandums of Understanding with ADB and World Bank:

SDG 17 STRENGTHEN THE MEANS OF IMPLEMENTATION and REVITALIZE THE GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

Met Office agreements signed with the Asian Development Bank and World Bank have led to increased development opportunities through strong partnerships. The Met Office works with multiple international and national meteorological and hydrological services to support the development of improved services to the public to save lives and protect property.