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Festivals and ‘webstivals’: the changing face of climate services networking

Climate services have come a long way since simply making climate observations available on a website. In a changing climate, climate services together with weather services, environmental impact assessments, and risk management, are increasingly used by many sectors, including energy, agriculture, health and tourism.

Climate Change and Environment

Building and coordinating a network of users, funders and providers of climate services is the key goal of the EU-funded Climateurope project. “Coming from 51 countries worldwide, this network is an important contribution to the implementation of the European roadmap for climate services,” says project coordinator Chris Hewitt of the Met Office in the United Kingdom. Climateurope has also established small groups of experts to assess Earth system modelling and climate service development in Europe, identifying gaps, new challenges and emerging needs. As always, communication is key, and reports, policy briefs and a series of festivals have brought together climate service user and provider communities.

Festival approach for networking

Out of an active network of 380 members, consisting of users, providers and researchers of climate information, approximately one third are climate services users, and two thirds are providers. While most members work in Europe, there are quite a few members who are located further afield. As planned, the network includes the Copernicus Climate Change Service, the EIT Climate-KIC, the Joint Programming Initiative-Climate (JPI Climate), the ERA-NET for climate services, and Horizon 2020 Earth system modelling and climate services projects. “We have held two very successful events in Seville and Belgrade, ‘festivals’, that were intentionally not organised as conferences,” Hewitt points out. Over 100 attendees were at each event with representatives from many sectors – agriculture to the insurance industry. The festival approach brings together the network through a varied programme, including international and local speakers, round-table discussions, interactive networking events, and local food, wine and art, as well as music. A gender balance – 45 % women and 55 % men – has been achieved in the network. Geographic balance has been more difficult, with fewer network members in eastern Europe compared with the rest of Europe. Climateurope’s response has been to proactively build the network in eastern Europe, for example by holding a festival in Serbia. A series of reports documents the evolving state-of-the-art in Earth system modelling and climate services. Included are future challenges and emerging needs and policy recommendations.

COVID-19 changes the way of networking

The final festival was to be held in Riga, Latvia in June 2020 but COVID-19 intervened. “Instead, we are now holding a series of online webstivals where the biggest challenge is making sure they are as interactive and engaging as the physical festivals were,” Hewitt points out. Opportunities and advantages afforded by online tools include facilitating networking and sharing experience and knowledge, but without the cost of travel and accommodation for attending face-to-face meetings. The associated reduction in carbon usage is also an issue highly relevant to the world of climate services and Earth system modelling.

Climate change brings challenges to tackle in the future

Climateurope has identified several challenges for the community it is working with. For climate modelling, key issues include ensuring support for the IPCC process, informing climate mitigation policies, enhancing adaptation and resilience to climate change, especially extreme events, and supporting the science-based formulation of adaptation strategies. For climate services, key challenges include understanding requirements and decision-making contexts, driving innovation and enhanced diffusion of information, assessing the value of climate services, and establishing standards for climate services. The climate modelling and services communities would best meet these challenges if they worked together and would benefit from shared development. “For the future, we are currently working on what the legacy of the Climateurope project will, or could look like, which will be documented in a report,” concludes Hewitt. There is a commitment for the Climateurope website to stay online for at least another 5 years which will preserve the outputs created and help maintaining the network.

Keywords

Climateurope, climate services, festival, network, modelling, Earth system, webstival

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