Willis Towers Watson (WTW) has announced the launch of a project to support the climate adaptation and financial resilience of coastal communities in Fiji and Papua New Guinea (PNG) that are vulnerable to the impact of climate change.
Rowan Douglas, head of WTW’s Climate and Resilience Hub, first presented the concept at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Madrid, where it was named a winner of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) Challenge Program for Adaptation Innovation. The concept has since been endorsed by Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, CEO and chairperson of the GEF.
Under the GEF Challenge Program for Adaptation and Innovation – and in collaboration with WWF Pacific, local communities and governments – the project, “Financial tools for small scale fishers in Melanesia,” will support climate resilience in Fiji and PNG through the development of risk financing mechanisms that provide shock-responsive funds at a local level and incentivize adaptive ecosystem management, WTW 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,” Douglas said. “This engagement will inform the design of bespoke insurance products and programs to support community-led resilience.”
The Melanesian Pacific islands rely heavily on the ocean to deliver the majority of their food, livelihoods and economic activity. The resilience of coastal communities in the islands also depends on the protective capacity of natural ecosystems and public infrastructure, WTW said.
Coastal communities are especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, the broker noted, with rising land and sea temperatures, sea-level rise, flooding, coastal erosion, and increasing frequency of extreme weather threatening lives and livelihoods. Adaptation to climate change is a special priority for communities on low-lying atolls and the coastal areas of the main islands in the region.
“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,” WTW said.
The global brokerage will collaborate on project implementation with the WWF GEF Agency and WWF Pacific, and partner with the governments of Fiji and PNG on the project.