As the World Climate Conference 3 drew to the close of its High-Level session in Geneva, Switzerland, news services reported dramatic flooding across the central Sahara. Agadez, the main city of northern Niger, suffered extensive damage, flooding and collapsing buildings, adding to the misery of thousands of displaced indigenous people fleeing civil conflict there.

The Saharan flood disaster punctuated the main message of WCC3. There is an urgent need to improve how meteorological information is made accessible to reduce climate instability causing costly disasters. There is sufficient scientific capacity to reduce the impacts of extreme weather if information gets to relevant parties early enough. There is a further need to strengthen national and regional capacity in the South, as well as strengthen ‘boundary’ organisations which meditate between the powerful and the vulnerable.

The Red Cross reported how it was caught off guard in 2007 by extreme flooding in West Africa, but how early weather predictions helped get resources in place for the 2008 heavy rainfall. The Red Cross is playing a boundary role by working with West Africa farmers, meteorological agencies, donors and national governments to anticipate crises and plan for adaptation.

The aim of WCC3, organised by the World Meteorological Organisation, was to get agreement from experts and diplomats on a Global Framework for Climate Services. The GFCS focuses on adaptation by improving the flow of information from meteorology agencies to those who need the information, ranging from rural communities to humanitarian organisations, national governments and regional treaty bodies.

Indigenous issues were represented by only two delegates from Africa. Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim (Chad) and Jeniffer Koinante (Kenya) represented the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee (IPACC). Nigel Crawhall if IPACC also represented TILCEPA. Ibrahim asked the Red Cross whether they were working with Saharan pastoralists, who were apparently excluded from disaster mitigation. Koinante emphasised the vulnerability of indigenous women to the impacts of climate change. Delegates agreed that rural women are change agents able to help build up community-based adaptation.

IPACC members and NGOs emphasised the importance of including rural communities in adaptation planning, and not assuming the State has effectively reached these key constituencies. Mozambique was held up as one of the best cases of integrating climate adaptation planning.

IUCN made several inputs. IUCN Director General, Mme Julia Lefèvre-Marton gave a key note address on the relationship between ecosystems, nature conservation and reducing human vulnerability to climate extremes. Eduard Müller of the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) gave a presentation on climate and ecosystems. Müller discussed the biodiversity crisis in Meso-America, the importance of indigenous knowledge systems in adaptation and mitigation, and the link between human vulnerability and collapsing natural ecosystems. The session emphasised that buffering ecosystem resilience will help protect both humans and nature. The briefing paper and high level agreement is to be found on the WCC3 webpage: http://www.wmo.int/wcc3/page_en.php