Each country has resources to prepare for extreme events. But we need to improve them, adapt them and redefine them” Celeste Saulo, Argentina

Each country has resources to prepare for extreme events. But we need to improve them, adapt them and redefine them” Celeste Saulo, Argentina

The following is a summary of an interview conducted by the UNFCCC with Dr. Celeste Saulo, director of the National Meteorological Service of Argentina (SMN) and second vice president of the World Meteorological Organisation.

National Meteorological Service of Argentina (SMN) and 2nd vice president of the World Meteorological Organisation.

The SMN leads one of the projects that EUROCLIMA+ is funding through the Risk Management component implemented by AECID and AFD. More details about the: https://bit.ly/2MxS2fB

See the full interview at https://bit.ly/2Wblg81

Within the disaster risk reduction component, why have they opted for a project on droughts and floods?

Both threats are highly frequent in our region and it is necessary to plan coordinated actions among countries to have early warning systems. Only from joint efforts and analysis at the level of watersheds shared between two or more countries, can any measures of disaster adaptation and mitigation and impacts associated with climate change be more effective.

How many millions of people are affected by the problem of drought in southern South America?

Undoubtedly, this affects tens of millions, since it directly impacts food production and hydroelectric energy generation, among other aspects.

Who are the main beneficiaries of the project and when are the first results expected?

The main project beneficiaries will be decision makers in both the productive and social fields, who will have information adapted to their needs. The project lasts 3 years and the results will appear gradually.

Does the project include the creation of employment or is it based above all on equipment and reinforcement of capacities for data collection and analysis?

The project is directly aimed at capacity-building in the six participating countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. These capacities range from the collection of data, to its analysis and quality control, which allows a monitoring the status of the system in terms of the hydric and meteorological situation. To this will be added tools for forecasting meteorological situations that restrict or put water availability at risk. In addition, a system based on the users of the information and not on its providers will be designed. This paradigm shift is central if we want information to be fully inserted into decision-making schemes and resource management.

Exactly what will be the practical actions that will be carried out?

Interdisciplinary work will be essential. All the information will be available on platforms that are accessible to these users and will be kept operational mode once the project is finished. That is why the participation of regional meteorological and hydrological services is key, and that we be responsible for keeping these systems operational.

Before the existence of this project, was it possible to predict in some way the risk of disasters related to droughts or extreme weather events?

Each country has some resources for anticipating extreme events. And, without doubt, we all need to improve them, adapt them and redefine them continuously. This project will contribute to generating a common platform, according to the current status of knowledge, with the important added value that comes from coordination, the exchange of best practices and the existence of a system to which the entire region will have access.

Indigenous peoples and minorities are often the ones most affected by land degradation. Are you going to count on the knowledge of these indigenous peoples to predict, or at least to mitigate, the effects of droughts and floods?

We will certainly try to work with these minorities starting with pilot projects. To pretend that a single system reaches everyone is impossible. But from a foundation that has tried to contemplate different actors and needs, it is more likely that we will reach more people. Territorial work is the most sensitive gear and we must reach it using the traditional knowledge of the inhabitants. But on this scale, it is necessary to go for more focused projects. This will most likely be in a phase that will follow this project.

At COP24, the UN Secretary-General urged countries to increase the ambition of their contributions to achieve the 1.5-degree target of the Paris Agreement. How can this project contribute to achieving this goal?

This project can contribute to the achievement of that goal, although it does not aim at it directly. If we achieve a system that allows us to better manage water resources as well as the generation of clean energy, there is no doubt that we can contribute to lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

Would you like to highlight a particular aspect of this project not so much at the technical level but at the community level?

In my view, the highlight of this project is the joint participation of six countries in South America, with experts from other countries and regions, such as the United States and Mexico, as well as the support of the World Meteorological Organisation. This articulation is very valuable capital that will not only accelerate the achievement of results, it has the potential to be reproduced by other countries with developing economies, such as ours. The idea of capitalising on regional strengths, adding best practices and opening up to share them with other countries or organisations is very powerful and I am pleased that Argentina contributes its grain of sand to this collective construction.

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