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Our First Briefing Paper at COP23

by David

Photo: B. Müller

In order to disseminate our findings among policy makers and development practitioners, we condensed our insurance review into a four-page policy briefing. This document, which is part of a DIE/GDI series, was finalized and printed just in time for the 2017 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn which prominently included the twenty-third Conference of the Parties (COP23).

⇒ Briefing Paper

In this context, the “InsuResilience Global Partnership” was officially launched on November 14. It is an international initiative “to provide vulnerable countries with financial protection to manage climate risks.” Two days later, a side event to the main climate conference discussed the partnership in detail. Birgit, the head of our junior research group, had travelled to Bonn to take part in this forum.

She reports that the participants represented a vibrant range of different institutions. They included ministries of countries affected by climate change, reinsurance companies, non-governmental organizations, development agencies, research centers, and the German federal government. While most were eager to promote the establishment of climate insurance programs in one way or another, the panel discussions also brought out nuances and contrasting viewpoints.

For instance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Chair of the Board of the African Risk Capacity (ARC) and formerly Nigeria’s first female Minister of Finance, argued that taking an imperfect approach and doing something was definitely better than doing nothing at all about climate change. Conversely, Stefan Dercon, Chief Economist at the Department for International Development (DFID) and Professor of Economic Policy at Oxford University, cautioned that you only had one attempt. If an insurance program was badly designed or something went wrong during implementation, you would not get a second chance in many countries or regions; careful planning is thus crucial. Resonating with our own paper’s argument, Debbie Hillier, Senior Humanitarian Policy Adviser at Oxfam UK, emphasized that insurance programs must be embedded in a holistic approach to risk management in general.

In the afternoon, Birgit joined one of seven parallel sessions: “Impact pathways for resilience on the micro level.” The focus here was on the evaluation of resilience criteria and especially the impact of climate risk insurance products on vulnerable populations. Birgit brought up the danger of unintended side effects in the case where land use decisions are changed by insurance, making practices less sustainable (e.g., increasing monoculture).

The participants agreed that monitoring and evaluation studies, designed to go beyond purely economic indicators, will be an important next step.

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