|United Nations System-Wide
for the Global Observing Systems
(GCOS, GOOS, GTOS)
Rome, 7 June 1999
Support to, and further development of, the global observing systems
Global observing system space panel (GOSSP)
Data and information management panel (DIMP)
Collaboration with the Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
Collaboration with the International Geosphere Biosphere Programme (IGBP)
Collaboration with the Integrated Global Observing Strategy (IGOS)
The participants were welcomed by Louise Fresco, Director, FAO Research, Extension and Training Division (SDR). The agenda was adopted without change and the sponsors agreed that, continuing the traditional practice, the host organization should chair the meeting.
The sponsors reviewed the report of the previous meeting and concluded that all items had either been completed or were on the agenda for discussion and follow-up.
The WMO representative reported that their Congress had met and agreed to establish an IOC/WMO joint commission to address issues related to oceans and climate. The IOC Assembly would meet in July to give a final endorsement.
The possible membership of IAEA in the G3OS sponsors group was re-examined. Although general discussions had occurred there were no further developments so far. IAEA expertise in issues such as persistent organic pollutants and other toxic chemicals were still seen to be of common interest to the G3OS as well as in issues taken up by the GOOS Coastal and Health of the Oceans panels. Several participants felt the criteria for sponsorship needed to be clarified; in particular the financial aspects. UNEP was requested to continue exploring with IAEA to further the joint development.
A G3OS brochure on the socio-economic aspects of global change was discussed and considered worthwhile to pursue. It could be developed in collaboration with the IHDP initiative. Each observing system would have to identify a Steering Committee member who is interested in this topic to identify areas and produce a combined text which could be printed and posted on the internet. It was agreed the Sponsors would re-consider producing a brochure in a year's time. Meanwhile, it could be useful to inventory the work that has already been done on this topic.
The upper air network and global surface network were in the process of trying to cross-compare products. A report to the UNFCCC on the adequacy of the global observing systems was under preparation in response to the COP IV decision regarding systematic observations and national plans in support of climate observations. GCOS will respond by concentrating on assisting countries through workshops with annex 1 countries and improved outreach.
GCOS has prepared draft guidelines for systematic observations and is getting inputs from some governments. They have engaged a consultant to assist in preparing the FCCC COP V report and are considering a possible intergovernmental meeting on the subject of climate observations. There is need to develop an options paper including views of governments on processes for strengthening observing systems and ways to secure lasting funding for activities and secretariat functions. Several sponsors felt that GCOS should be more closely engaged with other climate groups, such as FAO's.
Based on the FCCC SBSTA decision to use GEF in support of capacity building, it would be appropriate for the G3OS to come forward with an integrated programme.
The observing systems may have placed too much emphasis on operational systems rather than whether they could be sustained over the long-term. Many observations of the GCOS Initial Observing System were quasi-operational activities but were carried out under research programmes.
It was reported that the WMO contribution to GCOS consists of the post of Programme Director and support staff. Their non-staff contribution of $100,000 has been increased to $140,000 for the year 2000; IMO and ICSU contribute $40,000 year; there are also assorted consultancy and meeting funds.
GOOS is focusing on "end-to-end" activities - research to operations to products - the focus is on the long-term sustainability. A "products bulletin" is being planned and would be web based. Partnerships are being explored with industry, government and the military; this could include possible membership of operational people, industry and governments in the GOOS Steering Committee.
At the regional level a number of initiatives are progressing. Euro-GOOS is composed of 16 countries and receives financial support from the EU. A regional North Sea GOOS programme may be added during the coming year. Med-GOOS is being set up and should become operational next year. Pacific-GOOS is established but moving slowly. A Carib-GOOS being considered and South Asia remains to be covered. Work will soon be starting in the Eastern Indian Ocean and the Pacific, through the organization of capacity building workshops and creation of and IOC GOOS office in Perth, Western Australia. Emphasis is being given to the formation of national coordinating committees.
A GOOS "commitments" meeting is being organized for 5-6 July 1999 in Paris. It will include donors and national representatives. A joint statement by the G3OS could be considered.
The OOPC is progressing well. A climate conference in San Rafael, California, in October 1999 will bring together GOOS and CLIVAR to reach consensus on the design of major ocean observing systems for the next decade. GODAE is functioning well and has an office set up in Melbourne, Australia.
The GOOS coastal panel is developing a priority list of issues to address and a work programme. The group is dealing with issues such as identifying products required by different user groups and assessing the capacity of existing systems to make the observations. Included in the cross-cutting issues are contaminant transport; coastal ecosystems and fisheries. Six potential pilot projects have been identified so far and collaboration is being sought through involvement with the International Geographic Union (project 2 and 4) and ICSU.
GOOS presently has 11 posts - of which 7 are full-time equivalents; a data expert will be hired in August. Australia is proposing to set up regional office in Perth staffed by an IOC consultant. The 1999 budget is $663,000 with ca. $150,000 coming from the UNESCO-IOC regular programme, ca. $150,000 coming from the IOC general trust fund, and the rest from other extra-budgetary resources including ICSU and WMO.
The GTOS implementation plan and the data and information management plan have been completed and widely circulated. Both have been well received.
The global system of terrestrial observing networks (GT-Net) continues to develop. Networks on ecology, glaciers and permafrost have been established; collaborative efforts are underway with WMO to develop a network on hydrology. The TOPC is following this issue.
The GTOS net primary productivity (NPP) project is awaiting the launch of NASA's Terra satellite which is now likely to take place in December. Links are being made to reinforce the project through FAO efforts to obtain access to the SPOT 4 vegetation data set and to other NASA imagery which could be of interest to sites participating in the NPP project.
The NoLIMITS project (a GTOS affiliated project) organized a European-wide workshop (Oxford, April 1999) at which nearly 90 scientists attended. GTOS was represented by the Chairman and the Programme Director. As a result of this workshop, five additional countries expressed interest in participating in the NPP project.
GTOS is exploring the possibility of initiating or assisting in work on terrestrial carbon observations. Discussions will take place on the focus and partnerships at the upcoming IGOS-4 partners meeting.
Regional programme activities are underway in Central and Eastern Europe and in Southern Africa. Both activities are carrying out user needs assessments which will lead to the development of regional implementation plans.
A revised list of terrestrial observation variables is under development in the GTOS Secretariat and will be reviewed at the upcoming TOPC meeting before being finalized in October 1999. A list of socio-economic variables relevant to each of the five GTOS priority areas has also been developed. Discussions have taken place with the Secretariat of the Basel Convention (Transboundary transport of hazardous wastes) to initiate a similar exercise for toxic chemicals.
Following discussions with GCOS, the GTOS programme agreed to assume lead responsibility for the Terrestrial Observation Panel on Climate (TOPC). The fifth meeting of the TOPC is scheduled in Birmingham, 27-30 July 1999. The GCOS Chairman has invited the IGBP to co-sponsor the TOPC but a response has not yet been forthcoming.
With the completion of the list of terrestrial observation variables, the terrestrial ecosystem monitoring sites (TEMS) meta-database is now ready for a major upgrading and updating of its contents. A junior professional officer is under recruitment and a contract will be issued for making design changes to TEMS along the lines recommended by the TOPC.
A five-person GTOS Executive Committee has been identified and has been functioning informally since the beginning of 1999. The Steering Committee has been re-sized to ca. 12 members, including sponsors. Several additional members will be added.
The GTOS Steering Committee (GTSC) was scheduled to meet in France during the first half of 1999. However, the sponsor was unable to provide the required financial support.
The FAO contribution to GTOS consists of the post of programme director, a programme officer (remote sensing), a junior professional officer and general service support. A non-staff contribution of ca. $48,000 is also allocated; ICSU, UNEP, UNESCO and WMO will contribute a total of $95,000 in 1999. Extra-budgetary resources (ca. $120,000) are also raised through other sources, for this year they include Finland, Norway, and the EU.
Collaborative efforts with WMO/GCOS should continue as regards freshwater and hydrology. As GT-Net develops there should be a strong emphasis on the products and uses of observations. The UNEP water quality centre should be reflected in GTOS work, as should close links with the GPA on land-based sources of pollution.
UNESCO indicated its interest in collaborating more closely with GTOS on matters relating to hydrology, geology and ecology. Close links with BRIM, the OSS and WHYCOS are also needed. There is a need for continuity on geophysical processes within the GTOS Steering Committee; UNESCO agreed to identify a person.
The sponsors recognized that their support to the G3OS permitted only a few activities to be initiated. A coordinated approach to donors was seen as essential and should focus on the GEF, the Turner foundation and others to obtain support for assisting the conventions. The Sponsors agreed that the leaders for the contacts would be the GCOS Programme Director and the IOC Executive Director, respectively.
Despite the restrictions and difficulties, efforts to raise support for operational funding of the Secretariats should continue. Resources to start national and regional observing system programmes should be pursued actively; the case of the GTOS Southern Africa initiative is a good example.
The G3OS should focus on forming wider partnerships by engaging stakeholders and building awareness. Regular contacts with Convention Secretariats and the CSD are needed.
The GOOS concept of national coordinating committees and "Friends of GOOS" networks, might also be adapted to GCOS and GTOS.
Several sponsors felt it would be worthwhile to develop a joint G3OS programme through which ideas and proposals could be communicated to donors in an integrated and comprehensive framework, rather than piece by piece.
The G3OS representatives emphasized the importance of improving sponsor collaboration and coordination and that it must take place at the highest levels in the organizations. Several sponsors regretted that UNEP did not consult with them during the preparation of a proposal to the Turner foundation which led to the approval of the first $2m of a $10m, five-ear programme of capacity building in UNEP on assessment and monitoring.
The sponsoring organizations should also speak as a single voice regarding the role and importance of the observing systems. Several sponsors recalled the need for "official" recognition of GTOS by FAO governing bodies and suggested that FAO should continue to seek the endorsement of GTOS from its Governing body; the Committee on Agriculture (COAG) might be a starting point. The Governing Council of UNEP should also be informed about progress in the development of the G3OS and should consider ways to raise G3OS visibility in other UN organizations.
It was agreed that representatives of Convention Secretariats should be invited to future G3OS sponsor meetings in order to better understand their data and information needs and jointly define G3OS products. This should be an agenda item for future G3OS sponsor group meetings.
Several sponsors felt there is a need to "rationalize" the G3OS with other global observing systems such as the World Weather Watch and the Global Atmosphere Watch. This should be addressed at the next meeting.
WMO reported that the newly re-formed panel seems to be working efficiently although they were still awaiting report from last meeting. The panel is validating the need for and use of each observation variable and is taking on the additional role of serving as a technical liaison point with the IGOS partners.
The role of GOSSP vis-à-vis the IGOS partners group was discussed in some detail. Some sponsors queried whether GOSSP has the mandate to make recommendations to the Partners unless there is the endorsement from G3OS Steering Committees. At present, GOSSP identifies space requirements for a specific theme, then works with CEOS members to define and develop the operational outputs from various satellite platforms.
The challenges posed by the IGOS process goes beyond the thinking when GOSSP was formed. There is now more emphasis on integration aspects (in situ vs. space, theme vs. domain orientations). One sponsor felt that problems may arise if existing intergovernmental mechanisms are seen to be by-passed by IGOS-P. The terms of reference for GOSSP should be reviewed in this regard.
Some sponsors felt that GOSSP must report through G3OS mechanisms before advising the IGOS. If necessary, a G3OS Executive Committee could be used between meetings.
Several sponsors felt there is an overriding need to identify and further define the in situ requirements for space observations. This would greatly facilitate G3OS participation in the IGOS process. An in situ panel may be needed to deal with this topic.
Since the terrestrial side is the least advanced (compared to atmosphere and oceans) in defining observation needs, some sponsors felt that a "GODAE-like" effort which systematically assesses the current availability and anticipated needs for terrestrial data and information was warranted. WMO is recruiting a consultant to develop the in situ requirements for the IGOS-P; however the inputs are insufficient to base concrete recommendations.
The sponsors agreed that GOSSP should continue to work in with IGOS in a distributed manner but that a G3OS sponsor should serve as a focal point to ensure liaison and guidance with GOSSP. UNEP (Arthur Dahl) will develop a brief paper on the issues involved for discussion at the next sponsors meeting. The next meeting of GOSSP is scheduled for August 1999.
The draft plan is nearly ready to be published, after having been endorsed by the observing systems.
GOSIC moving ahead well, however, there is need to consider how to take it further ahead. So far support has been provided by NASA and NOAA. There is need to develop proposals for other sources of financing. The question was raised whether GOSIC will also address the issue of access to satellite imagery. The sponsors requested more information on GOSIC including a possible demonstration at the next sponsors meeting.
The J-DIMP Chairman is ready to step down; some names have been identified for a new chair and a list will be circulated to the sponsors and G3OS. The G3OS have somewhat different requirements as regards data and information issues and these need to be clearly defined. Could a single panel address all of the diverse issues. One topic of possible common interest might be "data exchange" policies and practices. This would require a review of the role and terms of reference of the panel. The next meeting of J-DIMP would take place in 2000.
A forum on the IGOS initiative is being organized for the UNISPACE III conference scheduled in Vienna in September 1999. FAO reported that several preparatory documents were already developed for the forum which provides a good opportunity to highlight in situ observation issues. John Townshend agreed to chair the session. It is expected that the results of the IGOS forum will be published in UNISPACE proceedings.
The sponsors agreed that a display panel would be appropriate for the upcoming UNFCCC COP V meeting and that it should be coordinated with other IGOS partners. Concern was voiced by some partners that the G3OS core mission should not be subsumed by the requirements imposed by collaboration with CEOS and IGOS. The sponsors agreed that the IGOS brochure could focus on the climate change products we can deliver, especially the societal impacts, and human dimensions.
Following a letter from the Chairmen of GCOS and GTOS to the Executive Director of IGBP inviting them to become co-sponsors of the TOPC, it was reported that no response had yet been received. The sponsors agreed that the matter should not be dropped. GTOS reported that they had participated in meetings with LUCC and GCTE (focus 3) in order to explore possible collaboration.
The themes for the IGOS partners group are yet to be fixed. However, it appears that ocean issues and carbon will be among the initial ones. The sponsors felt that the G3OS should be pro-active in identifying additional themes. The matter of the CEOS pilot projects was still being sorted out but it appeared that some would likely become IGOS projects.
The third IGOS partners meeting will take place on 8 June 1999 in Rome. It is important that the G3OS sponsors group be fully briefed on the issues to be taken up at that meeting. This will be based on the annotated agenda and the results of second IGOS partners meeting (Bangalore, 10 November 1998).
Among the issues to be taken up at the IGOS 3 meeting will be the contribution to FCCC COPs, the results of COP IV, plans for COP V report and follow-up.
The sponsors accepted the invitation of WMO to host the next G3OS sponsors meeting at their new headquarters building in Geneva on 6 June 2000.
Louise O. Fresco
Alan R. Thomas
Robert C. Landis