The University of the West Indies (UWI) is now part of an international collaboration to facilitate inter-regional South-South climate risk learning and research.
In a statement issued today, the University explains that as part of its response to the global climate emergency, it has joined forces with the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), the Munich Climate Insurance Initiative (MCII), the University of the South Pacific (USP), and the United Nations Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP) have established the Climate Risk Insurance Research Collaboration (CRIRC).
The UWI observes that the year 2019 proved challenging for many communities around the world who are living at the frontlines of climate change. Low-lying island states especially were hit by a number of weather events, including hurricanes, tropical storms, tsunamis, excess rainfall, drought, storm surge and wave impacts making it clear that the need for adaptation solutions is pressing.
Soenke Kreft, MCII Director, says in addition to cutting emissions, it is critical that support be given to the most vulnerable people, providing them with options to protect themselves against the impacts of more frequent and more intense weather events.
“Climate risk insurance can be such a measure if it is applied within a mix of other disaster risk reduction strategies,” Director Kreft notes. “While the field of climate risk insurance has made great advancements in the last decade, it is still considered as an innovation in the field of climate change, and as such, it can benefit greatly from more systematic approaches, enhanced knowledge sharing and networking between regions and among different actors.”
With CRIRC, the partners have established a framework for coordination and collaboration on research, development and publication of academic research and policy papers on disaster risk finance, insurance and social payment.
One of the first research priorities for CRIRC is the informal economy in island states in the Pacific, which consists of informal entrepreneurs, who are vibrant and visible players creating a livelihood for themselves and their families. Working as fresh produce sellers, handicraft creators, beekeepers and fish and crab sellers, they operate outside the realm of formal legal protection and without easy access to formal financial and business support systems. They work as single-person operations or as micro or family enterprises, and women are predominant in these types of income-generating activities.
The extent and impact of damage caused by weather events, such as cyclones, means that many governments of Small Island States face critical challenges in ensuring their financial resilience to climate change and natural hazards. They often only have restricted options to secure funds for recovery and reconstruction without compromising their long-term fiscal balance.
The research partners therefore aim to work together to explore the socio-economic and regulatory needs and demands for disaster risk finance in small islands countries, to develop and assess innovative risk financing mechanisms, and to identify how disaster risk financing tools can be integrated into countries’ risk management and disaster response toolboxes.
UWI Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, says the university is duty-bound and privileged to be a partner in the initiative.
“As an activist university with regard to Climate Resilience, and one situated within a region where climate change is an existential threat,” he says, “we regard it our duty to contribute our expertise in climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, and sustainable development; and to strengthen our ties with academics, national and local authorities of the Pacific Island Countries, who are facing many of the climate change-related challenges that we do.”
UWI's focal point for CRIRC, Dr. Donovan Campbell, notes that the recent losses and damages associated with disasters across the Caribbean has brought climate risk insurance into sharp focus. In the absence of easy access to debt and affordable, reliable insurance solutions, a large portion of the economic losses stemming from climate change events are currently being borne by governments, communities and households supported by development partners. Impact is felt for many years, resulting in an emerging population in climate poverty. CRIRC aims to identify ways to prevent this climate poverty in Small Islands Countries through improved climate insurance research cooperation and coordination.
The United Nations Capital Development Fund-managed Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme has been at the forefront of pioneering market based micro-insurance solutions for the mass market in the Pacific, through its work on financial inclusion in the region for over a decade.
“We are excited to be actively collaborating with MCII and the three academic institutions, USP, UWI and UNU through this cooperation that aims to foster an active research and learning agenda in the new Pacific Insurance and Climate Adaptation Programme being developed,” said Krishnan Narasimhan, UNCDF PFIP Deputy Programme Manager.
The expertise and familiarity of PFIP in the Pacific and its ability to bring together public and private sector for ecosystem and market systems development will add value to the cooperation.