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Governments and industry set for first-ever ocean risk summit in Bermuda
Published on July 17, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version

HAMILTON, Bermuda -- High level representatives of governments, the finance sector, the (re)insurance industry and other sectors will consider specific risks posed by changes in the world's oceans caused by climate change and other man-made impacts at a first-of-its-kind conference to be hosted in Bermuda in May 2018.

The Ocean Risk Summit will focus on how governments and the business sector should respond to the risks of existing and projected changes in the ocean which until recently have been poorly understood. The summit is being sponsored by insurance and reinsurance group XL Catlin along with other scientific and Bermuda based partners. These include the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Ocean Unite, Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, Bermuda Business Development Agency and the Bermuda Tourism Authority*.

The planned summit comes in the midst of rising concern from global governments and businesses about the threats related to changes in the oceans. Last month saw the first-ever United Nations Ocean Conference in New York to discuss the implementation of an ocean-specific sustainable development goal. The upcoming COP23 climate change negotiations are expected to focus more than ever on ocean issues.

The summit will showcase the latest research on the complex and often interrelated changes taking place in the ocean and their potential impacts. For example, ocean temperature increases caused by climate change are leading to rising sea levels and an increase in the intensity of tropical cyclones, thus escalating the impacts of storm surges, coastal flooding, inundation and erosion. One recent estimate suggests that the expected cost of hurricane damage to Miami alone is set to increase from US$255 billion in 2020 to US$3.5 trillion in 2050.

Other ocean related risks to be considered include the geopolitical and economic impacts of Arctic sea ice loss, threats to regional food security from overfishing and pollution, as well as the human cost of the spread of tropical diseases from water borne viruses. The summit will provide expert data and analysis to help businesses and governments identify their potential exposure to these and other ocean risks.

XL Catlin's CEO Mike McGavick said: "The insurance industry should be at the forefront of helping economies prepare for the consequences of climate change. Ocean risk means looking at all the ocean-driven implications – not just the societal and environmental - but the geopolitical, legal, economic and regulatory perspectives too. We have a responsibility as an industry to drive understanding of how to increase resilience, but also to help those communities that are severely underinsured and less able to adapt to ocean specific risks."

Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of the IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme, welcomed the planned summit as timely.

He said: “As IUCN's analysis makes clear, ocean warming is possibly the greatest hidden challenge of our generation. Whilst coastal and marine communities bear the brunt of ocean warming, overfishing and marine pollution, the consequences go well beyond that and can only be expected to worsen. It is crucial that we use the latest science and work with industry and governments to help increase our resilience in the face of these looming changes."

Bermuda's minister of the environment, Sylvan Richards, said: "Bermuda is already a hub for both marine science and the insurance industry. Our history and geography is inextricably tied to the ocean, and as an island we need to be aware of our vulnerabilities. We face the prospect of rising sea levels and a likely increase in tropical cyclone intensity. Our healthy coral reefs are hugely important for both fish stocks and our protection against storms. We need to understand our exposures and act accordingly".
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