Science and international development

Written evidence submitted by the Met Office (Int Dev 03)

Weather and climate science and international development

1. The importance of sustainable weather and climate services in developing countries is increasingly recognised by both DFID and the wider international development community such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and the UN Development Programme. Ultimately, weather and climate security underpins food and water security. Weather and climate information provides a crucial contribution to the achievement of national and international development goals: helping vulnerable communities prepare and respond to both natural and man-made disasters and increasing the ability of communities to adapt to future climate change. This contributes to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and is in particular aligned with the poverty reduction and environmental sustainability agendas. Developing national capacity in the science of climate change prediction is also an important mechanism to assist nations to participate fully in UNFCCC negotiations and contribute to bodies such as the IPCC.

2. The Met Office works in partnership with DFID, as well as national governments and other donor organisations, on a number of capacity development initiatives to strengthen the application of weather and climate science around the world. As part of the Public Weather Service the Met Office also supports National Meteorological Services (NMSs) in developing countries through the World Meteorological Organisation’s Voluntary Cooperation Programme (WMO VCP). This enables those NMSs from areas of the world where observations are sparse, such as Africa and the Pacific, to produce weather and climate information and disseminate it to other meteorological centres around the world. This information assists in the monitoring of global climate change and is used in weather and climate prediction models to improve forecast accuracy. This is a mutually beneficial arrangement that ensures that the Met Office and the global meteorological community have access to the best possible data for weather forecasting and climate prediction. In turn, the VCP assists developing country NMSs to exploit forecasts from major centres, such as the Met Office, and to translate them into a national context.

3. Through this experience the Met Office recognises that the challenge of translating science, within a developing country context, to achieve real development outcomes is often as great as the completion of the science itself. For example, a weather forecast model might accurately predict the trajectory and intensity of a tropical cyclone, but if this information is not communicated to the impacted population and emergency responders in a meaningful manner and they are empowered to act upon it, the forecast is of limited value. In this respect the Met Office is able to draw upon its operational experience of working with central government, disaster responders, local authorities, media, private sector, public, civil society and other stakeholders in the UK, to support its partners in developing countries. Based upon Met Office experience in the UK, partner NMSs are able to identify the relationships and processes necessary to deliver sustainable and effective weather and climate services tailored to the needs of their own nations.

How does the UK Government support scientific capacity building in developing countries and how should it improve?

4. The DFID-Met Office Climate Science Research Partnership (CSRP) is a current initiative to improve both the science and application of monthly to inter-annual prediction over Africa. The programme draws substantially on in-depth intelligence gathering with African NMSs, NGOs and other bodies to understand specific vulnerabilities and needs. A major component of this programme is a fellowship scheme allowing scientists from partner institutions in Africa to conduct research on key climate science questions for the region and to collaborate with Met Office scientists working on similar themes. The scheme is centred around a secondment to the Met Office which has helped to build much greater understanding and cooperation between the UK and African climate science communities.

5. DFID has supported the development of PRECIS (Providing REgional Climates for Impacts Studies) on an ad-hoc basis over a number of years. This is a state-of-the-art regional version of the Met Office Hadley Centre climate prediction model that can be run on a PC. PRECIS allows scientists to take global climate change information and "downscale" the data for their region. This strengthens understanding of the likely impacts of climate change on a country, or regional, scale. Crucially, PRECIS is a tool that allows scientists from developing countries to get involved with climate science, investigate the strengths and limitations of climate predictions, and develop knowledge on how these predictions can be applied to inform decision making. Scientists from over 100 countries have been trained and are supported in the use of PRECIS.

6. The Climate Modelling in Bangladesh project is a collaboration between the Met Office Hadley Centre and the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) which is supported by DFID Bangladesh. This project is enabling the Bangladeshi climate research community to produce their own regional climate projections, using PRECIS. A similar DFID funded initiative in China involves climate model downscaling for climate impacts and adaptation research in partnership with Chinese institutions. The work completed in Bangladesh and China serves as a model for how climate scientists can be engaged in a partnership at a national level, an approach which could be applied in other countries and regions.

7. The Met Office is also engaged in a wide range of capacity development initiatives which are not funded by DFID. Through the WMO VCP, the Met Office is supporting developing country NMSs to provide sustainable weather and climate services for their government and citizens. Examples include:

· Training and forecast products to support severe weather forecasting. This includes running weather forecast models specifically for Africa. Most recently the Met Office has supported a WMO coordinated project to disseminate weather warnings to fishermen on Lake Victoria. Part of this support has been to set up a 4km weather forecast model which is able to resolve small scale thunderstorms as they develop and move across the lake.

· Equipment and training to assist NMSs to provide weather presentations for their national television and radio networks. This improves visibility of the NMSs with their national government and wider stakeholders.

· Equipment, software and training to analyse and manage climate data, particularly for agricultural applications. This is beneficial to farmers in choosing crops and deciding on the best possible planting dates to optimise yield.

8. Under some donor funded initiatives, NMSs in developing countries are recipients of sophisticated technology without appropriate resources and training for ongoing maintenance, calibration and continued service delivery. Through the WMO framework, the Met Office and wider meteorological community are able to provide ongoing commitment and support, as well as address wider process and management issues, which are vital in ensuring long-term sustainability of services.

9. Working on these principles the Met Office also conducts capacity development initiatives for multilateral donor agencies and individual national governments. Examples include:

· Establishing a small network of Automatic Weather Stations in Sierra Leone in partnership with the Sierra Leone Meteorological Department, UN Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

· Secondment of an expert to Rwanda Weather Services funded by the Government of Rwanda to work with staff to enhance services, develop a sustainable growth strategy and implement training.

· A collaborative study of the likely impact of climate change on water resources in the Nile Basin in partnership with UNDP and Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources.

10. Closer alignment and coordination of the wider activities undertaken by the Met Office and international meteorological community with the regional and national programmes of DFID could be an efficient way to make the best use of scientific capability to achieve development outcomes. This could be achieved through more regular engagement and communications activities.

11. The Met Office has good and regular contact with the DFID Research and Evidence Division and also engages with individual country DFID offices, such as DFID Bangladesh, on an ad-hoc basis. More systematic sharing across DFID could ensure that lessons learned by one department, or country office, can be utilised by other areas of the DFID network. For example the CSRP is a project that has been coordinated by the Research and Evidence Division, but effective application of the science and capacity development across Africa, to ensure that DFID’s investment in the CSRP realises its full potential, will require much closer engagement and integration with DFID’s regional and country offices.

What are the most effective models and mechanisms for supporting research capacity in developing countries?

12. The CSRP fellowship scheme is engaging African climate scientists in research on key climate questions and, in the process, advancing their professional development. The Met Office would advocate the inclusion of similar fellowship schemes as part of any future capacity development programmes. The CSRP has also supported training workshops at ICPAC (Inter-Governmental Authority on Development Climate Prediction and Applications Centre) based in Kenya, at ACMAD (African Centre for Meteorological Applications and Development) in West Africa, and SADC-DMC (Southern Africa Development Community Drought Monitoring Centre) in southern Africa. In these ways the CSRP is proving very effective in both strengthening the existing scientific institutions and working in partnership with African climate science community to deliver enhanced and relevant services tailored to the needs and vulnerabilities of their populations.

13. This partnership approach is also at the heart of the projects that have been implemented in Bangladesh. In this case the direction of the science is coordinated jointly by colleagues from Bangladesh and the UK ensuring that it is tailored and owned on a national basis. Closer partnerships of this nature could be an effective means of translating the science into real development outcomes in other countries and regions.

14. UK support for research capacity in developing countries is dependent on identifying those areas where the UK has demonstrable leading expertise, enabling in-country scientists and end-users to leverage the best science capability possible. With other parts of government, the Met Office engages in UK science partnerships with other leading academic institutions to coordinate multidisciplinary teams across a broad science base. This ensures that the best possible science underpins these key projects. A similar approach could also be applied in the capacity development field. Future initiatives like the CSRP could benefit from the inclusion of a range of academic institutions in a longer-term science programme.

How does the Government monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the scientific capacity building activities it supports? Is further assessment or oversight required?

15. Progress on initiatives such as the CSRP is reviewed regularly both by DFID and by an independent Steering Committee. The Steering Committee consists of international experts who meet regularly to review the reports and future plans of project. DFID also monitor a broad set of metrics that indicate the ongoing success of the partnership. This is consistent with oversight of similar capacity development projects that are being completed for other donor organisations.

What role does DfID’s Chief Scientific Adviser play in determining priorities and in the development and assessment of capacity building policies?

16. The DFID Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) and Deputy Chief Scientific Adviser (DCSA) both have an authoritative standing within the international research community in development. The DCSA holds a part-time position at the University of Reading where he is an active researcher in the field of agriculture and climate change. The DFID CSA is a member of the cross-government CSAC group of CSAs, ensuring regular dialogue with the Met Office Chief Scientist. This could provide a useful forum for the Met Office to more closely align its capacity development activities with DFID’s to ensure greater effectiveness and more efficient delivery.

Met Office

13 December 2011

Prepared 22nd December 2011