Since October 2020 a team led by JBA Consulting has been supporting the Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF) within the UK Climate Research (UKCR) programme to develop standards for climate services and ways to value and monitor climate services. This two year project is due to complete in October this year.
This work built on an earlier UKCR SPF project, making a Review of standards, guidance and codes of practice for enhancing climate resilience.
- a new climate services standard to apply to all services developed in the UK, whether they apply in the UK or internationally;
- a methodology for valuing climate services, including case studies to demonstrate these approaches.
What do we mean by a ‘climate service’?
A climate service is a product, tool, guidance, advice or similar that allows people to make sense of climate or weather data and information and use it to support decisions. As a recent paper put it, climate services involve the production, translation, transfer, and use of climate knowledge and information in relevant decision-making, policy and planning. Climate services are often considered as an early low-regret adaptation option, but there are also climate services that can inform future, planned adaptation. The communities that benefit from climate services will be better adapted to long-term climate change as well as to the weather events and the year-to-year climate variability that affect them.
So, for example, a climate service might be a seasonal forecast of drought likelihood for three to six months ahead, or it might provide information that helps engineers and planners allow for climate change effects in the coming decades based on climate model projections.
Why is a standard needed?
Standards are a key mechanism to guarantee the suitability, quality, and performance of technological solutions. They also provide common terminology between users and providers of climate services. The need for quality control, standards and certification for climate services has emerged in consultations with users in the UK, across Europe, as well as globally through the World Meteorological Organization. Currently, there are no agreed standards for climate services (although ethical frameworks have been proposed).
Our standard is being co-developed through consultation with a wide range of stakeholders from across the UK and internationally. The benefits a standard will bring include:
- A standard builds CONFIDENCE and TRUST in the services that are being provided
- It encourages climate service providers to improve the QUALITY of their services, by striving for good practice
- It improves the TRANSPARENCY of climate service products and procedures
- It will increase the ACCOUNTABILITY of climate service providers
- It provides a BENCHMARK for a climate services, aiming to reduce the prevalence or use of services which do not meet this threshold
- It can help CONNECT decisions with most appropriate climate services and/or products
- And finally, it can support ETHICAL considerations such as equitable access and integrity of climate services
Why value climate services?
Investing in climate services leads to improved information. In turn, this provides economic benefits to users, as it leads to positive outcomes from the actions and decisions that they subsequently take. These economic benefits include the financial or private returns from improved decisions, for example, from yield improvements for farmers, but they also include societal or public benefits, such as reduced health risks or environmental improvements.
Existing research on the value of climate services finds that these generally have high net economic benefits, i.e. benefits are high when compared to costs. However, for these economic benefits to be fully realised, information needs to flow effectively and efficiently along the service value chain. This includes the generation of accurate information, the communication of this information to end-users, and the uptake and effective use of the information in decisions. For example, if a climate service reaches a low number of end-users, then the actual overall economic benefits will be lower than the potential benefits. Similarly, if people receive the information, but they do not use it effectively, the total benefits of action will be low. The method for valuing climate services therefore takes these value chain effects into account, including the efficiency losses at each step.
As well as developing methods, the project is undertaking a series of case studies as examples. The first of these is completed for a UK seasonal forecast climate service. Two further case studies are being carried out on the benefits of historic data or observations, and the potential valuation of adaptation climate services.
Final project stages
In the remaining 6 months of this project, we will be finalising the climate services standard document, finalising the two remaining valuation case studies, and reporting on these and running a dissemination seminar to share the findings of the project. We hope to see you there!
Murray Dale, JBA Consulting
Images: Shutterstock (provided by Met Office)
 Hansen, J., J. Furlow, L. Goddard et al. 2019. “Scaling Climate Services to Enable Effective Adaptation Action.” Rotterdam and Washington, DC. Available online at www.gca.org.