WTW (Willis Towers Watson), a leading global advisory, broking, and solutions company, announced the launch of a new financial initiative to help vulnerable fishing communities in Fiji and Papua New Guinea (PNG) to be more resilient to the adverse impacts of climate change.
Melanesia is one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change in the world. The coastal populations of Fiji and PNG face a range of sustainable development challenges exacerbated by climate impacts undermining the ecosystem services on which they depend. In turn, coping strategies can lead to a cyclical pattern of overexploitation of marine resources, causing longer-term damage to both the ecosystems and communities that depend on them1.
There is currently little in the way of climate risk protection available in the region beyond insurance policies covering fixed assets such as property. These only pay out after physical damage, and only after a lengthy loss-adjustment process. Even then, very few households carry such coverage2.
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) project Financial Tools for Small-scale Fishers in Melanesia3 has been developed by WTW, in collaboration with WWF, to close this gap through the creation of financial ‘shock-absorbing’ products tailored for fishing communities in Fiji and PNG, with payouts that can be deployed faster at the most critical time, to help them withstand the adverse impacts of climate change and effectively manage natural resources to ensure the resilience of the ecosystems themselves.
Kushaal Raj, Acting Head of the Climate Change and International Cooperation Division, Ministry of Economy, Fiji, said: “Given fisheries is a key area in national development planning and with the magnitude of threat climate change brings to the sector, this project will enhance Fiji’s capacity in promoting sustainable fisheries management and provide relief to small scale fishing communities in Fiji to sustain their livelihoods after a climatic event.”
This project, funded by the GEF’s Special Climate Change Fund, aims to contribute to this challenge in one of the world’s most vulnerable regions. It was formally launched with an inception meeting in which stakeholders from Fiji and PNG discussed the activities planned for the first year of the project and provided inputs to ensure its success.
Participants included Sylvester Pokajam, Chairman and President of the PNG Fishing Industry Association (FIA), who said: “We are pleased to cooperate because this project is fully aligned with the five years FIA PNG log-frame of the Responsible Sourcing Policy and it is an honour to cooperate with the PNG small-scale fisheries and coastal communities.”
Fiji Development Bank (FDB) CEO Saud Minam also expressed his support for the project: “FDB has been at the forefront of supporting smallholder fisheries entrepreneurs to build back sustainably after natural disasters that are exacerbated by the impact of climate change. FDB is happy to be part of this project and looks forward to its successful outcome.”
Rowan Douglas, Head of the Climate and Resilience Hub at WTW, said: “Ocean-related risk means that coastal communities are especially vulnerable to climate change. For communities of low-lying atolls and coastal areas of main islands in the Melanesian region, adaptation to climate change is an essential priority, and we are pleased to be exploring how risk understanding tools and risk transfer products from the insurance sector can enhance the resilience of vulnerable communities.”
WWF-Pacific will play a key role in helping WTW build bridges with local government and communities and offer guidance on local financial processes, languages, and culture.
Mark Drew, Director of WWF Pacific, said: “Fiji and PNG are countries that have large populations of small-scale fishers and are at high risk of natural disasters. This project will expand understanding and opportunities for small-scale fisher communities that are isolated from financial products. WWF Pacific is committed to working with our partners and key stakeholders to ensure that through the project we help advance resilience and incentivise sustainable resource management, in turn improving the health of our ecosystems."