SOFF at COP28: Increased Recognition, Showcasing Action

  • COP28 increased global recognition of systematic observation and SOFF, including through the first Global Stocktake, Earth Information Day and SOFF high-level events
  • First SOFF Action Report 2023 launched, showcasing speed and scale of SOFF operations. 60 countries supported and 6 frontrunners with investments approved to close basic weather and climate data gaps
  • Partnerships deepened and support for SOFF increased. Framework for Collaboration with major multilateral climate funds signed, additional pledges to SOFF UN climate fund  secured

Systematic Observation in the COP Process

Outcome of the first Global Stocktake

While the “Beginning of the End” of the fossil fuel era is the major headline coming out of COP28, Parties also agreed on targets for the Global Goal on Adaptation and its framework. This reflects a global consensus on adaptation targets and the need for finance, technology and capacity building support to achieve them. Among these targets systematic observation is prominently featured, stating that by 2027 all Parties have established multi-hazard early warning systems, climate information services for risk reduction and systematic observation to support improved climate-related data, information and services. (Paragraph 64a, FCCC/PA/CMA/2023/L.17).

SOFF is substantially contributing to achieving this target. SOFF is aiming at supporting 100 countries by 2027 to close today’s major data gaps in the internationally agreed Global Basic Observing Network (GBON), an obligation for all countries since January 2023. SOFF is also a foundational element and delivery vehicle of the UN Secretary-General’s Early Warnings for All initiative.

“The world is in a race against time to protect those on the frontlines of the climate crisis. Early Warnign Systems are an easily available, effective and proven lifesaving tool to protect the lives. All stakeholders must be mobilized to support the achievement of the Secretary-General’s goal of ensuring universal access to early warning systems by 2027. We need all hands on deck to make this happen. One life lost from a lack of access to an effective early warning system is one life too many.”
Selwin Hart, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Climate Action and Just Transition

Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA)

The SBSTA supports the work of the COP through the provision of timely information and advice on scientific and technological matters. At COP28, SBSTA (document FCCC/SBSTA/2023/L.10) emphasized the continued need to address gaps in systematic observations globally and noted with appreciation […] the continued efforts of the Systematic Observations Financing Facility. It encouraged Parties and relevant organizations to further strengthen their provision of support to the systematic observation community.

COP28 Earth Information Day

SOFF, for the first time, provided an update to Parties at the Earth Information Day 2023, a UNFCCC mandated event diving into research and systematic observation. In the plenary, Markus Repnik, Director of the SOFF Secretariat presented ambition, progress and future outlook of SOFF. See the presentation here.

Further, SOFF led a World Café table, a format that has been introduced for the first time as part of the Earth Information Day. Together with experts Florence Rabier, Director-General of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) and Carlos Fuller, Permanent Representative of Belize to the United Nation, participants discussed “The role of national delegates to support building the global observing system for climate.” The outcomes of the World Café table are captured in a final report of the Earth Information Day 2023.  

“Reporting from stations in remote areas of the globe contribute to global forecast quality up to 20 times more than any single station in continental Europe. This is why SOFF’s vision is so forward-looking and innovative.“
Florence Rabier, Director-General, European Centre for Medium- Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) 

SOFF Action Report 2023

At COP28, SOFF presented its first action report that captures 1.5 years of operations since SOFF opened its doors in July 2022. Read the summary of the report here, and the full version here.

  • Currently, Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Lower Middle-Income Countries (LMICs), only meet 7% of the mandatory target of surface land GBON stations. Achieving compliance will provide local benefits while delivering on a global public good – weather and climate data for more effective climate action.
  • 60 countries already received SOFF support, out of which 6 frontrunners with approved investment support to close their basic weather and climate data gaps (Belize, Kiribati, Maldives, Mozambique, Rwanda and South Sudan).
  • It took 3.7 months on average from programming of these 60 countries and preparation of the SOFF Readiness funding request to funding approval.
  • An Independent External Review assessed SOFF as highly relevant, effective and efficient, delivering on all aspects of the review.

One of the unique design features of SOFF is its innovative, hands-on, peer-to-peer technical assistance, including South-South Support. The South African Weather Service is proud to serve as a SOFF peer advisor.
Ishaam Abader, CEO of South African Weather Service and Permanent Representative of South Africa with WMO

Deepened partnerships and increasing support

SOFF COP28 high level event 

The SOFF flagship event brought together a broad range of committed partners: From Selwin Hart, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Climate Action and Just Transition, to SOFF beneficiary countries, peer advisors, Implementing Entities and funders.

A special moment was the signing of the Framework for Collaboration between the Secretariats of SOFF, Adaptation Fund, Climate Investment Funds, Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems Initiative (CREWS), Global Environment Facility and Green Climate Fund. Together, these funds are committed to enhance systematic observation and to improve the use of basic weather and climate data for effective climate action jointly.

Ministers and high-level representatives from many SOFF funding partners joined the SOFF event, expressed their political and financial support to SOFF, and highlighted the importance of SOFF to avoid and minimize Loss and Damage. Anne Beathe Tvinnereim, Minister of International Development in Norway pledged additional 50 million Norwegian Kroner – Norway is the first funder that announced already its third pledge to the SOFF UN Fund.  Ireland announced its second pledge, adding an additional 1 million EUR. Other funders, including the Nordic Development Fund, announced that they are considering additional pledges.

Given countries’ commitment to deliver their part on closing the basic weather and climate data gaps and their implementation speed, the SOFF UN fund is urgently requiring financial resources from additional funders. 

Joint event with European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecast (ECMWF)

To highlight the strong ECMWF and SOFF partnership, a joint event with high-level participants from ECMWF, SOFF co-founders (WMO, UNDP, UNEP), SOFF funders and beneficiaries, Microsoft, and the European Commission took place at COP28. Experts discussed how innovative SOFF finance leads to better weather forecasts and how these forecasts provide the underpinning for effective climate action.

SOFF at other COP28 events

SOFF was featured at several other events, including by the Netherlands’ “Water at the Heart of Climate Action” initiative, by Finland, the African Development Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank or the “Making Early Warnings for All a reality in fragile and vulnerable contexts” event. These events offered the opportunity to engage with many stakeholders, to communicate the importance of closing today’s major Global Basic Observing Network gaps, and to showcase scale and speed of action of SOFF as a new specialized UN climate fund.

“The African Development Bank is proud to serve as SOFF implementing entity and is combining SOFF resources with own finance so that countries can benefit from a comprehensive, integrated and coherent package of support across the meteorological value chain.“
Akinwumi A. Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group


Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF): SOFF is a UN specialized fund co-created by WMO, UNDP and UNEP to close the climate and weather observations data gap in countries with the most severe shortfalls in observations, prioritizing Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and SIDS. SOFF provides long term financial and technical assistance to support the acquisition and international sharing of basic weather and climate observations, according to the internationally agreed Global Basic Observing Network (GBON) regulations. SOFF is a foundational element and delivery vehicle of the UN Early Warnings for All Initiative.

Global Basic Observing Network (GBON): GBON paves the way for a radical overhaul of the international exchange of observational data, which underpins all weather, climate and water services and products. GBON sets the requirements for the acquisition and exchange of basic surface-based observing network designed, defined and monitored at the global level. GBON will improve the availability of the most essential surface-based data, which will have a direct positive impact on the quality of weather forecasts, thus helping improve the safety and well-being of citizens throughout the world. 

Early Warnings for All (EW4All): The initiative and its Executive Action Plan was launched by the UN Secretary-General in November 2022 at the COP27 meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh. The Initiative calls for the whole world to be covered by an early warning system by the end of 2027. Early Warnings for All is co-led by WMO and UNDRR and supported by pillar leads ITU and IFRC. Implementing partners include FAO, OCHA, UNDP, UNEP, UNESCO, REAP, and WFP, among other partners. SOFF and CREWS are delivery vehicles of this initiative.


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