GENEVA – The World Meteorological Organisation voted Thursday for Argentina’s Celeste Saulo to become its first woman leader and steer the organisation’s critical global role in tracking climate change.
Dr Saulo, a WMO vice-president who has headed Argentina’s weather service since 2014, won a landslide vote at the UN climate and weather agency’s congress in Geneva.
The WMO’s role in climate change has become increasingly prominent and Dr Saulo, 59, will likely become a well-known advocate on this pressing world issue.
“In these times when inequality and climate change are the greatest global threats, the WMO must contribute to strengthening the meteorological and hydrological services to protect populations and their economies, providing timely and effective services and early warning systems,” Dr Saulo said following her election.
“My ambition is to lead the WMO towards a scenario in which the voice of all members is heard equally, prioritising those most vulnerable and in which the actions it undertakes are aligned with the needs and particularities of each one of them.”
She will take over from the outgoing secretary-general Petteri Taalas on Jan 1. The Finnish meteorologist is coming to the end of his maximum second four-year term.
The WMO brings together international efforts in monitoring greenhouse gases, sea levels, temperatures, glacier melting and other climate change indicators.
It relies on satellites and thousands of weather stations to measure key parameters of the atmosphere, land and ocean.
Early warning priority
The leadership election was held on the penultimate day of the World Meteorological Congress, the general assembly of the WMO’s 193 member states and territories, which takes place every four years.
The congress, which opened on May 22, voted to ensure that everyone on the planet is covered by early warning systems for hazardous weather events by the end of 2027.
It put the cryosphere – the frozen world – high on the agenda, given the increasing impacts of melting sea ice, glaciers and permafrost on sea level rise.
It also approved a new initiative aimed at boosting global greenhouse gas monitoring through an integrated system of space- and surface-based observations.
“The main goal is to work for the member countries and territories and bring their voice, the voice of the less developed world, the small island states, the developing world, working all together to achieve our priorities,” Dr Saulo told AFP.
“Early warning for all is a key initiative, we will work on that, we will achieve that.
“I am definitely optimistic. This result shows that people are optimistic, and we can change for the better.”