Summit experts turn spotlight on ocean risks
Experts attending the inaugural Ocean Risk Summit in Bermuda have spoken about the importance of the event and what they hope it will achieve.
Two new reports on ocean risks warn of unprecedented changes occurring in the ocean and the need for business, government and the insurance industry to work together to address potential impacts. The reports were released yesterday.
Climate change, warming and increasingly acidic oceans, illegal fishing and depleted fish stocks, pollution, coastal flooding and more powerful maritime-driven storms are among concerns that will be discussed at the summit, which got under way with a reception last night and concludes tomorrow.
There will be a focus on how governments and the business sector should respond to the risks of existing and projected changes in the oceans. Other issues being covered include threats to global food security and human health, the impacts of hurricanes on communities, ecosystems, businesses, migration and national security.
Featured speakers include Prince Albert II of Monaco, Queen Noor of Jordan and John Podesta, former counsellor to President Barack Obama and White House chief of staff to President Bill Clinton.
Another speaker is José María Figueres, founder of Ocean Unite and former president of Costa Rica, who spoke about the event ahead of its official opening today. He said: “This is a perfect setting to have a discussion about how a changing ocean is and may effect the world of insurance.”
As an analogy of the damage being done to the world's oceans, Mr Figueres described a person suffering kidney failure after being reckless with their health; their quality of life going down and their insurance premiums going up.
He said: “I want to say that the ocean is really the kidney of the planet. Just as the kidneys purify our blood stream and are essential to our life, the ocean purifies our planet allowing life.”
Mr Figueres said oceans have absorbed more than 90 per cent of the heat increase due to climate change, about 25 per cent of carbon emissions, and provide 50 per cent of the world's oxygen.
“But the ocean, because of our recklessness is in decline,” he said, adding that as oceans decline storms are becoming more violent causing damage to infrastructure, higher insurance premiums.
“We need to move the oceans to a path of recovery, and that requires building environmental and financial resilience, that lowers the risk on a personal and collective level. The Ocean Risk Summit is all about that.”
The summit at the Fairmont Southampton is sponsored by XL Catlin, in partnership with organisations that include Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Ocean Unite.
XL is involved with the new reports released yesterday. It commissioned Ocean connections: An introduction to rising risks from a warming, changing ocean by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, while the report Ocean Risk and the Insurance Industry was led by Falk Niehörster, director of XL Catlin's Climate Risk Innovations.
Charles Cooper, chief executive, reinsurance at XL Catlin, explained the company's longstanding involvement with the study of oceans and ocean risk.
He said it is something that resonates with the company and is interconnected with the risks faced every day by XL Catlin's customers “such as warmer sea temperatures resulting in more powerful hurricanes, flooding risk”.
Mr Cooper said the company has a commitment to sustainability and the environment, was a founding member of the risk prediction initiative at Bios, and has conducted a number of surveys, including the XL Catlin Deep Ocean Survey in 2016.
When asked what it is hoped the summit will achieve, Chip Cunliffe, XL Catlin's director of sustainability, said there was a need to understand that the oceans are driving change, to create a bigger picture and show those links.
“Secondly, it's a multisectoral approach to understanding and creating solutions. The second day of the summit is solutions-based. One of the areas we are looking at is the potential creation of an Ocean Risk Index,” he said.
Mr Cunliffe said the summit is bringing together people who do not ordinarily have an ocean focus, and showing that there are opportunities for public-private partnerships to help mitigate risk, working across sectors to build resilience in communities that need it most.
Meanwhile Dr Niehörster spoke about Bermuda's “blue economy”, which includes coastal tourism and is dependent on marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs, that provide a service.
He said: “You understand it's a valuable asset and you want to insure it. Developing countries especially, small island nations and coastal countries need to understand that they can protect themselves and make better decisions in a sustainable way once they look at that risk.
“The insurance industry will play a much bigger role in the future in those development strategies for those countries at risk.”
Mr Figueres said the summit is bringing together a community of policymakers, financial, insurance, environmental experts, non-governmental organisations and the business community with the aim of “beginning to find solutions and answers to how we deal from a risk perspective to a changing ocean”.
He added: “Climate change and ocean are two sides of the same coin. So far in this world we have been concentrating on climate change.
“What is coming over the horizon in the environmental space is our ocean, intricately linked to climate change. To broaden understanding with respect to that issue is something I would hope would come out of this summit.
“The second thing is, this is not only about how do we mitigate the risks through insurance. More than that, it is how do we then put the ocean on a path to recovery so that it supports our life on the planet.”