Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Better climate coping through public-private partnerships

The Chief Risk Officer at Swiss Re (a former employer of mine) discusses development in Newsweek: Even if the world were to take steps to quickly and dramatically limit greenhouse-gas emissions, the levels already in the atmosphere will continue to alter our climate in the coming decades. As the focus of the debate on global warming shifts to assessing the impact of rises in temperature and coping with their effects, it has become increasingly clear that the developing world will face some of the greatest challenges. Dealing with this problem will require broad partnerships between public, private and nonprofit organizations.

…This will be especially problematic for populations heavily reliant on agriculture for their livelihood, as climate change will have a dramatic impact on the world's ability to produce food.

…With no formal insurance markets, the poor living in agricultural areas typically cope with economic crisis through self-insurance such as using savings, going into debt or selling assets. But these approaches will not be enough to cope with the unpredictability of climate change. We need to offer these populations more resilient, more modern financial tools.

The difficulty is developing solutions that effectively reach these large populations, the majority of whom work small plots of land in areas where weather patterns have been poorly documented. We cannot deliver solutions through the same channels that would be used in the United States and Europe. Establishing a strong network of partnerships involving the private sector, local government and nonprofit organizations will be essential.

…Another challenge is to overcome the reluctance of farmers to experiment with higher-risk—but more productive—technologies, such as high-yielding seeds. If farmers can get more resources to produce food, and rainfall-index insurance to manage their exposure to risk, they may feel more confident taking on production risks, which also provides protection from greater poverty being caused by climate change….

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