GEF NEWS: Safeguarding Melanesian fishing communities against climate threats
Those who live on the islands and atolls of the southwestern Pacific Ocean are exposed to rising seas and severe storms like almost no one else on Earth, and yet only a fraction are insured against the growing threat of climate change-related ecosystem, human, and economic losses.
A new initiative from WWF and the global advisory, broking, and solutions company Willis Towers Watson, with support from the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF), aims to close this gap through the creation of new insurance and financial products designed to protect fishing communities in Fiji and Papua New Guinea.
The two countries, which along with the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia, comprise the region of Melanesia, lie in the eastern half of what is known as the Coral Triangle, an ecosystem that teems with marine biodiversity.
It is no surprise, then, that their populations depend heavily on fishing and coastal ecosystems for both food and income. Small-scale fisheries are particularly important. The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that between 250,000 and 500,000 Papua New Guineans and half of Fiji’s rural households rely upon subsistence fishing – 10 to 20 times the number employed by commercial operations.
And while they are among the world’s smallest emitters of carbon dioxide, the islands of Melanesia face both acute and chronic threats from climate change.
WWF and Willis Towers Watson chose to focus on Fiji and Papua New Guinea in their venture because of the two nations’ exceptional vulnerability to climate change and its threats to coastal livelihoods. Since each country had a different risk profile, they also offered scope to explore a range of financial products through the new initiative.
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