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Press Release

Willis Towers Watson launches innovative project to support coastal climate resilience in Fiji and Papua New Guinea

June 9, 2021

Novel risk financing tools to support the climate resilience of coastal communities and ecosystems in Fiji and Papua New Guinea
Environmental Risks|Insurance Consulting and Technology|Investments
Climate Risk and Resilience

LONDON, June 09, 2021 — Willis Tower Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW), a leading global advisory, broking, and solutions company, today announced a project under the Global Environment Facility’s (GEF) Challenge Program for Adaptation Innovation to support the climate adaptation and financial resilience of vulnerable coastal communities to the adverse impacts of climate change, including major shock events, in Fiji and Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Under this project, Financial tools for small scale fishers in Melanesia, Willis Towers Watson - in collaboration with WWF Pacific, local communities, government, and business - will support community-level climate resilience in Fiji and PNG through the development of innovative risk financing mechanisms that provide shock-responsive funds at a local level and incentivise adaptive ecosystem management.

Melanesia is as much a large ocean as it is a collection of small islands, and the region is largely dependent on that ocean, and its coastal margins, for economic wellbeing. From fisherfolk dependent on a reliable catch, through coastal communities made more resilient through the protective capacity of natural ecosystems and public infrastructure, to tourism businesses generating GDP, coastal peoples are touched by the ocean.

For communities of low-lying atolls and the coastal areas of main islands in the Melanesian region, adaptation to climate change is an essential priority.”

Rowan Douglas | Head of Willis Towers Watson’s Climate and Resilience Hub

Rowan Douglas, Head of the Climate and Resilience Hub at Willis Towers Watson, said: “Ocean-related risk means that coastal communities are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, with rising land and ocean temperatures, sea-level rise, flooding, coastal erosion, and an increase in extreme weather events threatening lives and livelihoods. For communities of low-lying atolls and the coastal areas of main islands in the Melanesian region, adaptation to climate change is an essential priority.”

Fiji and PNG need financial tools that empower local communities to respond and recover from extreme climate events, enabling households to protect those assets they treasure and depend on, including fixed assets as well as ecosystems and natural capital. This project rises to that challenge.

Rowan Douglas presented the concept at the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid, Spain, where it was declared a winner of the GEF Challenge Program for Adaptation Innovation. It has since been endorsed by the Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of the GEF, Carlos Manuel Rodríguez.

Project implementation is in collaboration with the WWF GEF Agency and WWF-Pacific, and in partnership with the Governments of Fiji and PNG, and execution will be led by Willis Towers Watson, including consultation and collaboration according to the project’s Stakeholder Engagement Plan.

Douglas said: “The project will build the enabling environment for greater financial resilience through community engagement on community priorities, risk understanding, and financial and risk management literacy. This engagement will inform the design of bespoke insurance products and programmes to support community-led resilience.”

The project will also explore the integration of incentives and/or explicit risk financing for ecosystem management measures throughout insurance product and programme design, linking community-level financial resilience to extreme events to the significant co-benefits associated with physical risk reduction - through ecosystem-based adaptation - that reduces the vulnerability of coastal communities to climate impacts. Additionally, the project recognises that extreme climate risk - especially in Pacific Small Island Developing States - is not and cannot be the responsibility of vulnerable communities alone.

The project focuses on supporting communities to shift from an ad hoc, ex post community-level shock response (which is often disjointed, delayed, and ineffective when it comes to reducing disruption and short- and long-term impacts on communities) to a more formalised ex ante community-level shock response (which would get funds quickly and efficiently in the hands of those that need it to smooth shocks, reduce disruptions, manage natural resources, and respond to impacts). Therefore, the project will explore the landscape of risk ownership and responsibility in coastal communities - including an assessment of public and private risk sharing opportunities and across the backdrop of national and international climate and conservation finance policies, priorities, and negotiations.

About Willis Towers Watson

Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW) is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company that helps clients around the world turn risk into a path for growth. With roots dating to 1828, Willis Towers Watson has 45,000 employees serving more than 140 countries and markets. We design and deliver solutions that manage risk, optimize benefits, cultivate talent, and expand the power of capital to protect and strengthen institutions and individuals. Our unique perspective allows us to see the critical intersections between talent, assets and ideas — the dynamic formula that drives business performance. Together, we unlock potential.

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