FEATURE STORY

As Climate Change Hits the Caribbean, Partners Collaborate To Boost Resilience and Rejuvenate Coasts

January 7, 2016

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A coral gardening project thrives in Bali, Indonesia. 

Randall Brummett / World Bank

Even before Hurricane Joaquin’s catastrophic flooding of South Carolina in October, the storm had hit ten islands of The Bahamas with brute force. On Crooked Island, 85 percent of the homes were destroyed. Over 36 hours, the storm rested menacingly over the islands, closing airports as well as destroying communications and electrical infrastructure, according to the Ministry of Environment and Housing in Nassau.

A platform to improve resilience in the Caribbean

Currently in the design phase, the Caribbean Ocean and Aquaculture Sustainability Facility (COAST) proposes to promote the resilience of the small-scale fisheries sector in the Caribbean against increasing climate-change related disaster risk.  The objective is to create a platform for innovative insurance financing that also incentivizes small-island governments to support coastal management and reef restoration for climate resilience among other activities.

Belize, Grenada, Jamaica and The Bahamas are the first countries that have expressed an interest in being part of the COAST project, with scaled up activities and more countries possibly involved over time.

The Bahamas are vulnerable to an increase in tropical storms, both in number and intensity. Grenada faces the strong possibility of land loss from a rising sea, while Jamaica’s coastal infrastructure, from airports to government buildings, will become increasingly threatened. 

Insurance against disaster, incentives to rejuvenate the coast

Insurance premiums for disaster risk insurance would be co-financed and discounted for the countries that incorporate climate resilience and marine economy protection measures. Payouts would also be supplemented for countries that commit to implement country-led plans to ensure that small enterprises and smallholder fisher folk are provided for after extreme weather events.

 “COAST is envisioned as a truly collaborative initiative between the concerned countries as well as the World Bank and other development partners,” said Victor Mosoti, the Task Team Leader of the COAST initiative.

The World Bank is partnering with U.S. Department of State, the FAO, the Nature Conservancy, and the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF), among others, to begin to address this current challenge in ocean health. The State Department has already provided a seed contribution of $5 million toward this effort. Donor funds will be housed at PROFISH, the World Bank’s Global Program on Fisheries, which has worked to improve environmental sustainability, livelihoods and economic performance in the world’s fisheries and aquaculture. Through PROFISH, the Bank has generated important lessons and highlighted the importance of focusing on the poor and most vulnerable in fish farming communities. 

Collaborating to help countries with SDG 14

COAST is part of the World Bank’s ongoing effort to support countries in line with Goal 14 of the new Sustainable Development Goals―“to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.” COAST will focus on three complementary elements: (1) a carefully designed and marketable insurance product at affordable premium; (2) the requisite planning effort on food security and disaster risk management at country level; and (3) making technical assistance widely available. 

Technical assistance may focus on key aspects such as the replenishment of coral reefs through coral reef gardening and even creating new gardens on metal grids. Plans include parrot-fish hatcheries produced with local fisher folk. There will also be technical assistance related to the restoration of mangrove vegetation, which is one of the most effective forms of coastal protection from disasters, short of seawalls—and insurance payouts.

More generally, the Bank is committed to increasing the number of people who have access to insurance coverage, directly or indirectly, in the most vulnerable countries.

“At the World Bank, we are well placed to try to blunt the negative impact of climate change-related hazards by 2020 and support the development of early warning systems,” said Valerie Hickey, Practice Manager of the Environment and Natural Resources Global Practice. “COAST will help us get there with the critical building blocks and technical capacity.”


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The aftermath of Hurricane Thomas near the coast  of Gonaives, north of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. UN Photo/UNICEF/Marco Dormino. Creative Commons.