Low-tech ways to cope with climate risks in the Caribbean

Swiss Re contributes expert insights to a leading publication on disaster-risk reduction and climate change adaptation

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world’s largest global environmental organization, aims to help drive a global effort to find pragmatic, nature-based solutions to some of the major challenges facing the planet. And this theme is at the heart of its publication Safe Havens – Protected Areas for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation (see download box at right).

The contributors describe climate-related threats to ecosystems in 18 countries and propose strategies on how these hazards can be addressed. The dangers it depicts range from climate change-related extreme weather events to hurricanes, flooding, soil erosion, drought and desertification.

Low tech and in tune with nature

Although these challenges are very diverse and their impact far-reaching and complex, the solutions put forward are often low tech and do not, necessarily, involve costly infrastructure projects. Take Barbados in the western Caribbean. This island, the focus of Swiss Re's contribution to the IUCN publication, has to contend with the risk of high winds, storm surges and inland flooding.

Says Swiss Re Climate Change Specialist Lea Mueller, "Early investment in climate resilience is more cost-effective than post-disaster relief. Barbados can cost-effectively avoid more than a third of expected losses through initiatives such as beach nourishment and reef and mangrove revivals. Protecting mangroves and coral reefs can considerably reduce damage from strong winds and storm surge."

Swiss Re at forefront of parametric insurance solutions for the Caribbean

Swiss Re's contribution to the IUCN publication, coordinated by Mueller and Swiss Re Global Head of Sustainability David Bresch, is derived from the study Economics of Climate Adaptation (ECA), which focuses on eight Caribbean countries.

According to the ECA study, economic losses from storms and floods consume roughly 4% of Caribbean countries' GDP per year. Without additional adaptive measures, increasing climate risks could cost some Caribbean states up to 9% of their annual national income by 2030.

The study was released by the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) and supported by Swiss Re analytics. CCRIF, the world’s first multinational parametric insurance facility, is owned and operated by Caribbean governments. It was set up under the guidance of the World Bank with Swiss Re as the co-lead reinsurer.

Published 15 Jan 2015

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