WMO’s new Secretary General promises “priority” to countries vulnerable to climate change

Celeste Paulo wants to focus on ensuring that scientific endeavours better serve societal interests.

Members of French Civil Security rescue team evacuate local residents by boat as the Aa River overflows in Arques near Saint-Omer, after heavy rain caused flooding in northern France, January 3, 2024. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

Prof. Celeste Saulo of Argentina has taken office as the first female and first South American Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Saulo pledged to prioritize the challenges encountered by the most vulnerable nations amidst the escalating impact of climate change and the rise of extreme events.

“Climate change stands as the most significant global threat in our era. The exacerbation of its effects will only heighten existing inequalities,” stated Saulo in a press release on the day she assumed her new role. Hailing from a country in the southern hemisphere, Argentina, she expressed a heightened awareness of the imperative to prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable nations.

This focus aims to empower these countries in enhancing their resilience against extreme phenomena related to climate, weather, water, and the environment. Saulo also emphasized the resource challenges faced by national meteorological and hydrological services, noting that even a modest increase in investment can yield substantial socio-economic benefits for communities.

The newly appointed director assumed the role after succeeding the Finnish Petteri Taalas. Her election took place in June 2023, where she secured a decisive victory over her primary competitor, the Chinese candidate. Celeste Saulo, who had been at the helm of the National Meteorological Service of Argentina since 2014, was recently named the first vice-president of the WMO. She aims to be at the forefront of activities conducted by the global meteorological community under the WMO’s guidance, with a focus on ensuring that scientific endeavours better serve societal interests.

A significant aspect of the WMO’s work involves leveraging and disseminating analyses conducted by national meteorological agencies, particularly in areas such as greenhouse gases, sea level, temperatures, melting glaciers, and other climate change indicators. The WMO has recently prioritized the goal of providing early warning systems for weather hazards to the entire global population by the end of 2027.

Additionally, member states of the WMO approved the establishment of a “Global Observatory of Greenhouse Gases” last year, aiming for continuous monitoring to account for both natural sources and sinks, as well as elements associated with human activities.

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