Willis Tower Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW), a leading global advisory, broking, and solutions company, today announced a project to support the climate adaptation and financial resilience of coastal communities in Fiji and Papua New Guinea (PNG) vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including major shock events.
Rowan Douglas, Head of the Climate and Resilience Hub at Willis Towers Watson, first presented the concept at the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid, Spain, where it was declared a winner of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Challenge Program for Adaptation Innovation. It has since been endorsed by the Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of the GEF, Carlos Manuel Rodríguez.
Under the GEF Challenge Program for Adaptation Innovation – and in collaboration with WWF Pacific, local communities and government – the project ‘Financial tools for small scale fishers in Melanesia’ will support climate resilience in Fiji and PNG through the development of innovative risk financing mechanisms that provide shock-responsive funds at a local level and incentivise adaptive ecosystem management.
Rowan Douglas said: “The project will build the enabling environment for greater financial resilience through community engagement on community priorities, risk understanding, and financial and risk management literacy. This engagement will inform the design of bespoke insurance products and programmes to support community-led resilience.”
The Melanesian Pacific islands are heavily reliant on the ocean for delivering the majority of their food, livelihoods and economic activity. The resilience of coastal communities also depends on the protective capacity of natural ecosystems and public infrastructure.
Ocean-related risk means that coastal communities are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, with rising land and ocean temperatures, sea-level rise, flooding, coastal erosion, and an increase in extreme weather events threatening lives and livelihoods. For communities of low-lying atolls and the coastal areas of main islands in the Melanesian region, adaptation to climate change is a priority.
Fiji and PNG need financial tools that empower local communities to respond and recover from extreme climate events, enabling households to protect the assets they depend on, including natural assets such as coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass meadows.
In recognition that management of climate risk – especially in Pacific Small Island Developing States – is not and cannot be the responsibility of vulnerable communities alone, the project will assess public and private risk sharing opportunities and against the backdrop of national and international climate and conservation finance policies, priorities, and negotiations.
The project will support communities to shift from an ad hoc, ex post community-level shock response to a more formalised ex ante community-level shock response which would get funds quickly and efficiently in the hands of those that need it to smooth shocks and minimise disruptions.
Project implementation is in collaboration with the WWF GEF Agency and WWF-Pacific, and in partnership with the Governments of Fiji and PNG, and execution will be led by Willis Towers Watson, including consultation and collaboration according to the project’s Stakeholder Engagement Plan.