With many countries beginning to ratify the Paris Agreement to curb impacts of climate change, there is growing attention on how to move forward with practical action – and what barriers stand in the way. One challenge to successful policy creation is data – how much is available, how easy it is to access, and how it can be utilized successfully.

Impacts from climate-related disasters are on the rise, and disproportionately affect developing countries – Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 affected nearly 10 percent of the Philippines’ population and destroyed almost 90% of homes in some areas. Managing these growing impacts will require robust, accurate, and accessible risk information to help guide effective policy.

A recently launched report, Solving the Puzzle: Innovating to Reduce Risk, takes an in-depth look at this challenge, and provides decision-makers with practical ways to move forward. Extensive consultations with the global disaster risk management community revealed that:

  • in many developing countries, there simply isn’t enough available data related to risk, which limits the development of risk-reducing policies;
  • current efforts do not adequately take into account needs of practitioners on the ground;
  • eliminating the communication gap between information producers and policy makers is an important final step to ensure action on proven risk-reduction efforts. 

“By speaking as one voice on the priorities for disaster risk information, the re/insurance industry is committed to collaborating with the climate and disaster risk community to encourage greater investment,” says Eric Andersen, CEO of Aon Benfield. “We hope that this report acts as a trigger to identify and deliver relevant data and analytics to achieve its recommendations and better manage the impact of natural disasters on global communities.”

solving the puzzle

A key component of the report is its synthesis of a wide range of perspectives, with contributions by more than 100 international and local organizations from the private sector, academia, NGOs and government. These diverse sources ensure that the report’s findings address issues related to disaster resilience at the local, national, and international level.

“There is tremendous potential in the insurance industry to help the world become more resilient to climate and disaster risk, but significant roadblocks remain,” says Ian Branagan, Group Chief Risk Officer and Senior Vice President at RenaissanceRe. “As Co-Chair of Insurance Development Forum – a new collaboration of the United Nations, the World Bank, and the insurance industry – I see this report as an important part of the effort to overcome these challenges and build resilience for those that need it most.”

The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) compiled the report on behalf of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the partnership includes further support to catalyze implementation of the report’s findings. Four pilot projects will be launched in Tanzania and a country in South Asia under the Second Round of the GFDRR/DFID Challenge Fund – a unique financing initiative aimed at bringing innovation and technology to bear on problems related to risk identification.

These pilot projects will focus on crucial issues identified in the report – for example, teams will survey buildings in populated areas to collect structural information that can be used to more accurately assess vulnerability in future risk assessments. From collecting data through Twitter for flood analysis in the Philippines, to visualizing risk data for civil society groups in Africa, Challenge Fund winners are harnessing the power of technology for resilience.

“This report shows that there is strong convergence of opinion on the type of information that will help decision makers take action to better address disaster and climate risk,” says Francis Ghesquiere, Head of GFDRR. “GFDRR will continue its efforts to ensure this information becomes more readily available to vulnerable countries and communities.”

Guided by the collective findings of the new report and lessons learned from its ongoing Challenge Fund, GFDRR and the World Bank are working to overcome bottlenecks for action climate and disaster risk, ensuring that future policies help make safer, more prosperous communities – especially for the most vulnerable.