The Explanation Behind India’s Introduction of a National Framework for Climate Services

India is embarking on a major programme to launch its maiden national-level framework towards providing climate services and information.

Spearheaded by the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the National Framework for Climate Services (NFCS)
envisions to bring a seamless working platform for users of climate information and services, and help decide and mitigate climate risks for key sectors — agriculture, energy, disaster management, health and water.

What is the NFCS? What is it based on? Why is it so significant?

What the NFCS is based on

The Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) is a partnership of governments and organisations at a global level, for the production and better usage of climate information and services. The GFCS aims to facilitate researchers and users of climate information and services to join hands in order to make informed and actionable decisions for the long-term betterment.

The announcement to establish a GFCS was made during the third World Climate Conference held in Geneva in 2009. This framework, led by National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHS) in their respective nations, includes active participation of policymakers, planners, investors and vulnerable communities or sectors, as they need climate information and services in a user-friendly format, so that they can prepare for expected trends and changes in the long run.

GFCS envisages to generate high-quality data from national and international databases on temperature, rainfall, wind, soil moisture and ocean conditions and other vital weather parameters. This is aimed at creating long-term historical averages of these parameters, as well as maps, risk and vulnerability analyses, assessments and long-term projections and scenarios.

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The five major components under GFCS are Observations and Monitoring, Research, Modelling and Prediction, Climate Services Information System, User Interface Platform and Capacity Building. At present, the priority sectors where the GFCS focuses upon are agriculture and food security, energy, health, water and disaster risk reduction.

What the NFCS will do

In lines with the global framework, the national framework will be based on country-specific weather and stakeholder needs. Unlike the GFCS, the nodal agency for the formulation and implementation of the national framework in India will be the IMD.

Along with the identified sectors of focus, India could add other relevant sectors like transport, tourism and other emerging sectors from time to time.

Initially, the NFCS will work in bridging functioning gaps between the various agencies who require climate services. These include the hydrological, power, renewable energy, transport, dams and irrigation, health agencies are central, state and other levels.

Why the NFCS is needed

IMD, which will enter its 150th year of existence in December 2023, has gained a remarkable hold on providing high-quality weather services for the country and its South Asian neighbours. The IMD makes daily weather forecasts and season predictions for the winter, summer and the monsoon seasons.

The accuracy of its weather and seasonal forecasts for the monsoons, cyclones, heatwaves and coldwaves, thunderstorms and lightning, snowfall, flash flood – all of which primarily affect a vast country like India – have improved many folds.

Over the decades, the Met department steadily upgraded the number of ground-based weather observation stations and radars. But, there remain many gap areas across terrains and the seas, wherein no weather data is available. There is a lack of long-term (100 years or more) climatological data from the Himalayan regions, the oceans, besides inexistence of radar and satellite-based climatology. This is one of the major reasons why the IMD could make limited in providing climate predictions (typically long-term, example decadal predictions).

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“We need to have a complete composite of climatological information of all the weather parameters, in order to make climate predictions. There is a need to integrate the weather and climate services,” said Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, director general, IMD, during the first Stakeholder Consultation Workshop on National Framework for Climate Services held in Pune recently.

With NFCS, the Met department aims to strengthen the observational network on land and the seas, improve the data inflow and eventually use it to run weather and climate models for deriving climate predictions.

Suitable to the user’s needs, the climate data and information products will be tailored and help identify agricultural production, health trends, population distribution in high-risk areas, road and infrastructure mapping for the delivery of goods and other socio-economic variables.

The framework aims to support efforts to prepare for new climate conditions and adapt to their impacts on water supplies, health risks, extreme events, farm productivity, infrastructure placement, power and energy generation and others.

How the NFCS will be implemented

Since the 2009 declaration of frameworks for climate services, Switzerland, China, Germany and the United Kingdom have launched the NFCS.

Countries where the NFCS implementation is in the advanced stages include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Guinea, Madagascar, Moldova, Niger, Senegal, Chad, Togo, Tanzania, Vanuatu and South Africa.

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With the first workshop organised recently in Pune, India has joined Cuba, Ghana, Liberia, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo Brazzaville and Ethiopia, where the NFCS-related national consultation workshops are being planned.

India will be soon releasing the statement of NFCS after consensus received from the key partnering stakeholders.

Though the idea of having NFCS in India dates back to 2008, it did not take off as desired. With climate vagaries and extreme events affecting India, and the world, becoming more frequent, the early implementation and acceleration of NFCS will be possible when planned in a mission-mode and is driven by the country’s highest decision-making office.

Anjali Marar works with the Raman Research Institute, Bengaluru.