Major new project to enhance early warning systems for increased climate resilience in Timor-Leste

The Green Climate Fund has approved a USD 21.7 million project to support the establishment of end-to-end climate information services and multi-hazard early warning systems (MHEWS) in Timor-Leste 1.03 million people in Timor-Leste (80% of the population) are expected to directly benefit

Nairobi – A major new project developed by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) will address the urgent need for robust climate data, information and multi-hazard early warnings in Timor-Leste, one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world; the country is also increasingly vulnerable to climate change.

The USD 21.7 million project, “Enhancing Early Warning Systems to build greater resilience to hydro-meteorological hazards in Timor-Leste”, was approved by the Green Climate Fund (GCF) at its 30th Board meeting on 6 October. Timor-Leste is a vulnerable Small Island Developing State (SIDS), Least Developed Country (LDC) and one of the world’s youngest nations. It is highly exposed to both extreme climate (e.g. floods, droughts, heatwaves and tropical storms) and slow-onset events with very limited capacity to prepare for and recover from climate impacts.

Climate change presents serious challenges to Timor-Leste’s development; as the impacts of climate change manifest, Timor-Leste needs scientific data, information and early warnings on climate hazards and related risks. The transformative new project aims to establish in-country capacity to generate and use climate science and knowledge underpinning increased resilience and adaptive capacity of vulnerable sectors (including health, agriculture, disaster risk reduction, water, and environmental management) and communities across Timor-Leste.

“The need for enhancing our early warning systems and building our resilience to climate-related hazards is greater than ever before. In April 2021, Timor-Leste was hit by the worst floods in our recent history, which claimed multiple lives and caused extensive damage and destruction,” said Timor-Leste’s Secretary of State for the Environment, Demétrio do Amaral de Carvalho. “The approval of this project means a lot to us. It will provide essential funding to address critical adaptation priorities and build our resilience in the face of future climate change impacts.”

Under the project, a new national Forecasting Centre will be established, while upgrades to the hydro-meteorological observation network will ensure compliance with the Global Basic Observing Network standard. A high-resolution air quality monitoring and alerting framework will provide multiple pathways to reduce climate change and air pollution impacts, including through evidence-based mitigation policy and interventions.

The project will build local capacity to translate weather, climate and oceans information into targeted impact-based forecasts, which will feed into sector-specific decision support systems for agriculture, disaster risk management, fisheries, and health. Long-term environmental co-benefits are expected to be significant. The increased availability and use of actionable climate information can enhance natural resource management, from climate risk-informed policymaking to conservation and arresting biodiversity loss.

“This project will enhance local capacity to shore up essential social services against destructive climate effects,” said Yannick Glemarec, Executive Director of the Green Climate Fund, the world’s largest climate fund. “Accurate climate information will reduce disaster risks and save lives in Timor-Leste, as well as supporting crucial long-term planning to adapt to climate impacts for key national sectors such as health, agriculture and fisheries.”

Glemarec added that GCF’s earlier project preparation support with the World Meteorological Organization and the Government of Timor-Leste had been crucial in laying the groundwork for this climate project

The introduction of impact-based forecasting and Forecast-based Financing (FbF)/ Early Warning Early Action (EWEA) will provide an innovative mechanism for disaster preparedness and early action. Effective FbF/EWEA saves lives and minimizes loss and damage caused by climate-related hazards.

“Science-based, data-driven climate services and early warning systems save lives and livelihoods,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. “Investing in climate science and associated capacity building is essential for effective climate action and fostering climate resilience, particularly in vulnerable small island developing states.”

Dissemination and communication of risk information and early warnings will be improved through the development of end-to-end people-centered MHEWS targeted to the specific vulnerabilities of different population groups, which will extend the reach to the last mile. Benefits from the early warning system will be maximized through simultaneous capacity building for climate risk management from national to local level.