United Nations System-Wide
Report of the Third Meeting of the Sponsors Group for the Global Observing Systems (GCOS, GOOS, GTOS)

Paris, France, 5 June 1998

ICSU Secretariat
51 Bd de Montmorency
Paris, France
Published by UNEP as UNEP/DEIA/MR.98-4

Progress Reports from the Directors of GCOS, GOOS and GTOS
Introduction of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as a potential sponsor
Joint Panels and co-ordination between the G3OS
Co-ordination with international bodies and programmes
Programme support and operation
Development of other joint activities
Sponsorship issues
Integrated Global Observing Strategy (IGOS)
Date and host of the next meeting

The meeting was opened by the Executive Director of ICSU, the session Chair, at 9 am on Friday 5 June. The agenda was adopted with some modifications (Annex 1). Apologies from the IOC and FAO representatives were conveyed. The list of participants is given in Annex 2.

Progress Reports from the Directors of GCOS, GOOS and GTOS

The Director of the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) provided a comprehensive report on activities and progress of GCOS since the last meeting of the sponsors. It was noted that the process of finding a successor to the present GCOS chair was well underway, and that the Sponsors would be asked to endorse the proposed candidate. The GCOS MOU, which had been redrafted to reflect the changes toward better integration between the Global Observing Systems (G3OS), as discussed at the last Sponsors Group meeting, had been circulated to the Sponsors. Further suggestions were awaited before finalising the text. Candidates had been proposed to fill the vacancies on the GCOS Steering Committee, subject to the approval of the Sponsors. The next meeting of the Steering Committee would take place in early spring of 1999. The Sponsors were requested to assist in the replacement of the GCOS Director, who was to leave in July. Reductions in the number of staff at the secretariat were also noted.

The publication of brochures and other documents was announced. A diagram illustrating the G3OS modules and the relationship between them was presented and suggestions for improvement requested. It was suggested that the Directors of the G3OS review and modify the G3OS chart provided by GCOS.

A new chairman of the Global Observing Systems Space Panel (GOSSP) is being appointed subject to confirmation. It was proposed that a consensus between all three systems should be made before the appointment of a joint panel chair and other key appointments. The Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) and the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS) would consult with their respective Steering Committees on the pending appointment of a new chair. It was proposed that each observing system should take on responsibility for a joint panel on a rotational basis. GCOS would continue to be responsible for GOSSP.

The GOOS Director reported on the evolution of the programme. Progress in several of the modules was noted, particularly the Coastal GOOS and Living Marine Resources (LMR). Two new regional pilot projects, Pacific-GOOS and Mediterranean GOOS (Med-GOOS) were underway. Existing observing systems which form the basis of GOOS, but which did not previously interact, were now being managed through a GOOS Initial Observing System to correspond more to GOOS needs. An Interim Implementation Advisory Group has been set up to ensure the integration of various existing observing systems in the GOOS Initial Observing System so as to lead eventually to operational GOOS. The next step is to incorporate national ocean observing systems. Efforts will be made to start this process in 1999.

A document of Principles of GOOS Capacity Building is being drawn up by the GOOS Steering Committee to steer the GOOS Capacity Building Programme more effectively. The publication of the GOOS Strategic Plan and the GOOS 1998 - a prospectus for GOOS, was announced. The planned GOOS Agreements meeting had been cancelled, because it was deemed more effective to use established intergovernmental mechanisms such as the IOC assembly for national endorsement of GOOS. A draft resolution was being prepared to be sent to delegates well in advance of the 1999 IOC Assembly. A Commitments meeting, involving heads of Agencies, would be organised after the resolution was in place to bring national observing systems into GOOS.

The Sponsors continued to recognise the need for a coordinated joint mechanism for implementing the stated requirements for ocean and surface marine meteorological data to support the common GOOS/GCOS ocean climate module, as well as other developing requirements of GOOS. In this respect, the proposal to establish a new joint IOC/WMO body for oceanography and marine meteorology, with status and responsibility similar to a WMO Technical Commission, was welcomed. The new joint body would replace the existing CMM and Joint Committee for IGOSS. It was agreed that the representatives of the sponsors would bring to the attention of relevant constituent bodies the strong support of the Sponsors Group meeting for this initiative.

The Director of GTOS summarised the activities of the observing system over the last few months, as presented in a report to the Sponsors. They were informed of the appointment of a new chairman to the GTOS Steering Committee. The GTOS Steering committee was scheduled to meet 15-19 June in Santander, Spain; the Spanish regional government had provided partial funding for the meeting.

It was pointed out that although there was adequate administrative support in the Secretariat, there was a strong need to fill the positions of two senior scientific officers. In addition to its work on establishing GT-Net, improving TEMS, and participating in joint panels, GTOS is focusing on initiating regional networks by developing an Eastern European component (in collaboration with the EU No-Limits project) and in the SADC countries of southern Africa.

Contact had been established with IGBP and several of their LUCC meetings had been attended by steering committee members. There was now a need for discussions on more specific collaboration and an IGBP representative had been invited to the steering committee meeting.

Introduction of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as a potential sponsor

The representative of the IAEA presented a brief overview of the objectives and activities of the organisation. Measurements of organic pollutants, isotopes in precipitation and radioactivity in the oceans were examples of the type of areas in which IAEA could contribute to the Global Observing Systems, as well as capacity building. The IAEA has significant technical and scientific expertise in quality control, an essential complement to the G3OS. Although most of the organizations around the table already had strong links with the IAEA, the Sponsors agreed that the agency should talk with the G3OS directors to discuss areas of cooperation, whether or not it was considering sponsorship. It was recognised that the HOTO Panel of GOOS was a natural starting place for a link between IAEA and GOOS, and this matter will be taken forward by the GOOS Project Office.

Joint panels and co-ordination between the G3OS

Joint Data and Information Management Panel (J-DIMP)

The Sponsors noted the divergent data and information requirements for each observing system. There was concern that J-DIMP is not the best forum in which to develop data and information management plans. They recommended that each Observing System separately consider its own approach to data and information management, later coming together to address overarching issues through a smaller J-DIMP. Nevertheless the J-DIMP metadata project and the joint G3OS information centre being developed under J-DIMP auspices were seen as useful developments.

Global Observing Systems Space Panel (GOSSP)

GOSSP had put together a useful profile of what the G3OS bodies required. Upon the resignation of the chair, GOOS and GTOS reconsidered their participation in the GOSSP. GOOS agreed to continue support for GOOS at its Steering Committee meeting and GTOS will consider the issue at its Steering Committee meeting later this month. There will be a small meeting of GOSSP under a new chairman as soon as practicable. GOSSP will work to provide advice to the CEOS plenary in November as to the G3OS requirements.

In revising GOSSP, it has to be large enough to encompass an appropriate technical range to cover a broad set of issues while working mainly through specialised working groups and remaining small enough to achieve results. Much of the work can be done by e-mail. A small knowledgeable rapid response group is required.

Terrestrial Observing Panel for Climate (TOPC)

GTOS still needs to identify a mechanism for non-climate variables (e.g. land, freshwater, biodiversity and pollution). Many of the experts currently on the TOPC and the variables they have identified for climate would also apply to the other variables. The Sponsors noted that the issue of GTOS leading the Terrestrial Observing Panel for Climate (TOPC) would be discussed at the upcoming Steering Committee meeting.

Ocean Observing Panel for Climate (OOPC)

The last meeting of the OOPC took place in France in April and good progress was reported. The panel will be making a contribution, with WMO, to an El Niño Retrospective which will evaluate the success of the El Niño forecasting system and determine what improvements are needed in it. It was noted that the Global Ocean Data Assimilation Experiment (GODAE), a project under the OOPC was progressing rapidly, and that its strategic plan would be ready in 1999. The Sponsors suggested that the elements which had led to the success of the OOPC should be identified for guidance in the management of the other panels.

Co-ordination with international bodies and programmes

Progress on the GCOS draft report to the UNFCCC SBSTA on the adequacy of the Global Observing Systems was reported. Three main points emerged from the document: the data available is not perfect, it can be improved with little expense, and effective sharing of data could bring governments closer to the Convention targets. The IPCC, the G3OS Sponsors and the Global Change research programmes had all been consulted. The Sponsors agreed that this was an important development which showed that the G3OS were being accepted as advisors to the Convention. This could lead to an opportunity for funding through the GEF mechanism, as well as strengthening the dialogue between the G3OS and the convention secretariats, if the report responded to the requirements of those bodies.

The Sponsors noted that although contact with IGBP had been made on several occasions, it would be useful to the G3OS if closer involvement could be achieved. An effective way would be through the Steering Committees and panels, to which a representative of IGBP could be nominated to provide the link.

Programme support and operation

Budgets and Fund-raising

It was suggested that in view of the potential for international funding support for climate observations, a project proposal for the next GEF project rounds should be formulated. The Sponsors were informed about the UN's Turner Fund which will focus on environmental issues among others. A good proposal from the G3OS could easily be submitted to the Turner fund.

Secretariat support

Concern was raised about the diminishing staff at the GCOS secretariat and the imminent departure of the Director. It is imperative that WMO provide someone to fill the post of GCOS director temporarily when T. Spence leaves and until his replacement arrives.

The sponsors are aware of and concerned about the budget problems of the three observing systems and their secretariats. They were encouraged to investigate the possibility of seconding personnel to the G3OS secretariats.

Development of other joint activities

Coastal areas

Collaboration on that topic was reported to be taking place, notably between GOOS and GTOS. A Pan-African Conference on integrated coastal zone management will be held in Maputo (Mozambique) from 18 to 24 July 1998 co-organized by UNESCO and its IOC, UNEP and FAO (to be confirmed) as well as the Governments of Mozambique and Finland. The Conference will also be used to create awareness about and support for global observing systems

Socio-economic benefits

Although some cost-benefit analyses had been undertaken within GOOS in its early days, very little has been done by the systems as a whole on the topic. EuroGOOS is currently developing standard mechanisms for cost-benefit analyses in the European context, and its mechanisms may well be transportable elsewhere under the GOOS banner. The need to persuade developing countries that the G3OS were beneficial to them as well as to developed countries was strongly felt. The Sponsors agreed that a brochure describing the socio-economic benefits of the G3OS would be useful, both in persuading developing countries and in finding sources of funding.

Sponsorship issues

The Sponsors of GTOS noted that GCOS and GOOS have mechanisms for reporting to the Executive bodies of their host organizations (WMO and IOC respectively). It was concluded that a similar mechanism (such as regular reporting to the FAO council) would be appropriate for GTOS. The Sponsors recommended that the FAO representative to GTOS raise this matter for consideration at the highest appropriate level in FAO.

The new priority topics at UNEP, including namely Environment, Research and Assessment was felt to be an opportunity for the Sponsors to have more influence on the funding possibilities of the G3OS.

Integrated Global Observing Strategy (IGOS)

The draft Annex to the Partners Exchange of Letters, a document prepared after a meeting between CEOS and the G3OS to consolidate the cooperation between the two communities, was reviewed. The Sponsors felt that the document was too formal, and the terms of collaboration with CEOS on an Integrated Global Observing Strategy (IGOS) not flexible enough. It was recommended that a reduced and modified text be prepared for presentation at the IGOS Partners meeting on 6 June. A one page text was duly prepared.

Date and host of the next meeting

FAO kindly offered to host the next meeting of the Sponsors Group at its headquarters in Rome. This will take place in March 1999.

The meeting was closed at 6:30 pm.

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1. Opening of the meeting and introduction of participants

2. Adoption of the Agenda and working procedures

3. Progress Reports from the Directors of GCOS, GOOS and GTOS

4. Introduction of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as a potential sponsor

5. Joint Panels update and co-ordination between the G3OS
 - Joint Data and Information Management Panel (J-DIMP)
 - Global Observing Systems Space Panel (GOSSP)
 - Terrestrial Observing Panel for Climate (TOPC)
 - Ocean Observing Panel for Climate (OOPC)

6. Co-ordination with international bodies and programmes
 - Draft report to Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technological Advice of UNFCCC
 - Link to IGBP

7. Programme support and operation
 - Secretariat support (including personnel), steering committee status
 - Budgets and fund-raising

8. Development of other joint activities
 - Coastal areas
 - Socio-economic benefits

9. Sponsorship issues
 - Definition of sponsorship
 - Potential new co-sponsors

10. Integrated Global Observing Strategy (IGOS)
 - Follow-up from March 26 CEOS/G3OS meeting
 - Input to June 6 IGOS Partners meeting

11. Date, host organization and venue of the next meeting



GCOS - Global Climate Observing System Joint Planning Office
Mr Tom Spence
Joint Planning Office for GCOS
c/o World Meteorological Organization
P.O. Box 2300
1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
Tel: 41 22 730 84 01
Fax: 41 22 740 14 39

GTOS - Global Terrestrial Observing System
Mr Jeff Tschirley
Director, GTOS
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00100 Rome, Italy
Tel: 39 6 5705 3450
Fax: 39 6 5705 3369

IAEA - International Atomic Energy Agency
Mr. Fernando P. Carvalho
Head, Marine Environmental Studies Laboratory
19 av. des Castellans
B.P. 800
MC-98012 Monaco Cedex
Tel: (377) 92 05 22 22
Fax: (377) 92 05 77 44

ICSU - International Council of Scientific Unions
Mr Jean-François Stuyck-Taillandier
Executive Director
51 Bld de Montmorency
75016 Paris, France
Tel: 33 1 45 25 03 29
Fax: 33 1 42 88 94 31

Ms Sophie Boyer King
Environmental Sciences Officer
51 Bld de Montmorency
75016 Paris, France
Tel: 33 1 45 25 03 29
Fax: 33 1 42 88 94 31

GOOS - Global Ocean Observing System
Mr Colin Summerhayes
GOOS Project Office
Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission
1 rue Miollis
75732 Paris Cedex 15, France
Tel: 33 1 45 68 40 42
Fax: 33 1 45 68 58 12

UNEP - United Nations Environment Programme
Mr Arthur Dahl
Deputy Assistant Executive Director
Division of Environmental Information and Assessment
   and Coordinator, UN System-wide Earthwatch
15 chemin des Anemones
1219 Chateleine, Geneva, Switzerland
Tel: 41 22 979 92 07
Fax: 41 22 797 34 71

UNESCO - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
Mr Gisbert Glaser
Assistant Director-General
Bureau for Coordination of
Environmental Programmes
7 place de Fontenoy
75700 Paris, France
Tel: 33 1 45 68 10 00
Fax: 33 1 45 68 58 30

WMO - World Meteorological Organization
Mr Robert C. Landis
World Weather Watch Department
P.O. Box 2300
1211 Geneva, Switzerland
Tel: 41 22 730 82 21

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UN System-wide Earthwatch Coordination, Geneva