Experts continue to debate where insurance belongs in climate financing. Credit: Peter Richards/IPS
  • Opinion by Jamie Cummings (chapel hill, nc, usa)
  • Inter Press Service

The 2023 Climate Conference COP27 in Sharm put loss and damage clearly on the political agenda with the agreement to set up a Transitional Committee to seek to establish a fund for Loss and Damage and to look at other ways to help countries and people address disasters.

Today the conversations around insurance in regard to loss and damage have shifted. Some argue that insurance comes up short when addressing loss and damage. For example, one idea of an insurance fund would require all parties, including those from the Global South, who have contributed the least to global emissions, to buy in and share the risk burden.

This idea negates the historical responsibility of the Global North as leading polluters. Experts continue to debate where insurance belongs in climate financing and this article intends to highlight some critical thinkers in the space.

Paul Hudson, a lecturer of Environmental Economics at the University of York and frequent contributor to the International Science Council, contends that insurance can still be a useful tool for addressing natural hazards and climate impacts if its function in the private or public sector is previously determined.

“In order for society to have a great degree of adaptive capacity we still need to work out what is the actual role we expect insurance to achieve,” Hudson said.

According to Hudson, the ideas of insurance in the public and private sectors are in contention. In discussions around insurance, people often use the language of private responsibility in relation to a compensation fund but what may be more necessary is for people to simply have an accessible and affordable means of compensation, which is the role of a public good.

An additional fear is that countries fall back on the private insurance sector too often when they have yet to provide the funding for adaptation and mitigation, which puts the commitment to losses and damages in question. Still, perhaps there is a role for the private and public insurance sector despite its shortcomings.

Experts are considering ways to integrate both private and public solutions so the most vulnerable populations are protected from climate-induced losses and damages.

Raghuveer Vinukollu, Senior Vice President and Climate Resilience and Solutions Lead at Munich Reinsurance America, Inc., argues that an integrated approach could provide a sustainable and affordable solution to the question of insurance. Vinukollu supports a bottom-up and top-down process to address resiliency.

Resilience from both angles aims to mitigate the protection gap caused by high costs. Such a model underscores the importance of community resilience as well as risk prevention, promoting the whole of society’s safety from risk rather than the few who can afford a premium.

Again, prevention is critical but fails to address the question of losses and damages which have already occurred. If vulnerable communities are faced with climate disasters, they must have community resilience (i.e., resources), which can be secured through accessible insurance.

Waterfront Alliance is a company that strives to build community resilience in part through education. Joseph Sutkowi, the group’s Chief Waterfront Design Officer, explains that it is critical to standardize aspects of design and make such knowledge accessible.

In this way, architects and engineers from around the world can create infrastructure built for the community and will be resilient in the face of natural disasters. Additionally, spreading awareness about flood risk–or other climate hazards–can in turn raise awareness around purchasing insurance that could be critical to forming communities that can recover from disasters.

The crucial piece of this argument on the implementation of insurance mechanisms is that they must not exclude the most vulnerable groups, including low-income communities. Here, Mathieu Verougstraete, Lead on Disaster Risk Reduction Financing and Infrastructure Resilience for UNDRR, suggests countries from the Global North have a role to play.

Verougstraete asserts that international cooperation would allow donor countries to step in and provide a mechanism to ensure that insurance remains affordable and still provides the protection the vulnerable countries need.

Brandon Mathews works directly with these vulnerable nations to meet their needs. Mathews is the head of the Vulnerable 20 (V20) Sustainable Insurance Facility within the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The facility funds insurance for micro, small, and medium enterprises which are the “cornerstone of economies.”

Aligning with vulnerable groups means giving them ownership. Oda Henriksen, Climate Risk Manager for Food Security as a Financing Advisor at United Nations World Food Program (UN WFP), has highlighted ownership as a key finding based on case studies in Belize and Nicaragua with insurance programs.

UN WFP argues that local government and private sector contributions, as well as consumer empowerment, are essential for a sustainable approach to insurance in disaster risk reduction.

Held on June 1st the Insurance Development Forum signed an agreement to advance the Global Resilience Index with the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) to “help countries, financial institutions and investors, map and quantify their current and future climate and disaster risks and demonstrate the benefits of investing in resilience.”

With Loss and Damage now near the center of the political preparations for the upcoming Climate Summit COP28 in Dubai in December then a menu of approaches will be explored. Within this menu perhaps there is a role for the insurance sector (in either a private or public sector capacity) if done the right way.

A strong insurance system should examine all of the stipulations raised by experts in the field. The system must also be continuously revised to meet the evolving demands of vulnerable climate communities. With livelihoods at risk, potential solutions must be critiqued and considered from all angles.

Jamie Cummings is part of a Belmont Forum-funded grant, Re-Energize Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience for Sustainable Development. She was the climate change focal point for the recent UNFCCC Bonn Climate Conference for the Sendai Stakeholder Engagement Mechanism. With additional support from Rene Marker-Katz and Cameron Mcbroom-Fitterer, Associate Researchers with Re-Energize DR3.

© Inter Press Service (2023) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service


Benjamin Netanyahu resisted calls to drop his controversial overhaul of Israel’s judiciary in a fiery televised address Thursday, hours after his government passed a law that was condemned by critics as an effort to protect his position.

Israeli opposition politicians earlier condemned the new law, which would limit the ways a sitting prime minister can be declared unfit for office, describing it as a way to protect Netanyahu, who is facing an ongoing corruption trial.

By a 61-to-47 final vote, the Knesset approved the bill that states that only the prime minister himself or the cabinet, with a two-thirds majority, can declare the leader unfit. The cabinet vote would then need to be ratified by a super majority in the parliament.

Former Prime Minister Yair Lapid called the move a “disgraceful and corrupt personalized law” and said Netanyahu is “looking out only for himself.”

Netanyahu later doubled down on his controversial plans to weaken Israel’s judiciary, despite long-running protests and interventions from international leaders – as well as concerns from Israel’s security and military establishment.

“I am working to reach a solution and am attentive to the concerns of the other side. We have already made changes,” he said, pointing to a softening to the bill that would give the government power in appointing judges – a partial climbdown announced on Monday that was dismissed by critics as insufficient.

Israeli media had earlier reported on Thursday afternoon that Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, was going to announce he believes the judicial overhaul needs to be halted because of the damage it was doing to Israel military. Hundreds of Israeli reservists, including specially trained Air Force crew, had announced they would refuse calls to serve if the overhaul passed, as they would no longer feel that they’d be serving a democratic government.

But Gallant was summoned to Netanyahu’s office for a meeting and announced he would delay his statement.

The law passed on Thursday states that “the authority to declare the Prime Minister incapacitated will only belong to the government or the Knesset and will only occur due to physical or mental incapacity,” a Knesset statement said on Thursday.

The bill also prevents the Supreme Court from considering “a request to declare the incapacity of the Prime Minister.”

“Given that a sitting prime minister derives his power and authority from the people through his representatives, this proposal reflects the existing concept according to which the removal of the leader against his will, will be determined by the people’s representatives alone without the involvement of an unelected arm,” the statement said.

Women dance during protests against Netanyahu's contentious judicial reforms in Tel Aviv on March 22, 2023.

It came a day after Israel’s Ambassador to the United States was summoned over a vote in the Knesset on Tuesday to roll back 2005 legislation that previously ordered the evacuation of four Israeli settlements established in the northern West Bank.

Israel’s prime minister’s office later confirmed that no new settlements will be established in areas previously evacuated under the 2005 disengagement law, despite the repeals.

In a statement, the prime minister’s office said the parliament’s “decision to repeal parts of the secession law brings an end to a discriminatory and humiliating law that prohibited Jews from living in the areas of northern Samaria, part of our historical homeland,” using the biblical name for part of the West Bank.

“However, the government has no intention of establishing new settlements in these areas.”

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF), which treats the area as a closed military zone prohibiting Israeli civilians from entering, said it is still “learning the meanings of the bill and will act in accordance to the law.” Any changes to the area will not be executed without the IDF’s sign off.

Under international law, the West Bank is considered occupied territory and settlements there illegal, which Israel disputes.

In an interview with CNN’s Becky Anderson Wednesday, Labor Party leader Michaeli said, “I believe that the protests must be a sign of warning and the signals that are coming from Washington must be a red light to Benjamin Netanyahu and to make him stop what he’s doing in order to save not only Israeli democracy and the state of Israel, but relations with the US as well.

“I can only hope that my Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gets his act together as soon as possible and does not allow the US-Israel relations to come to a point that is dangerous for Israel, and that is not good for the region,” she continued.

Michaeli said she opposed the legislation calling it a “very harmful and very dangerous decision.” “One of the drivers for this judicial coup that they’re trying to pass now is the settlers that have been wanting to bring down the Supreme Court of Israel for many, many years because they want to be able to do in the West Bank whatever they want to do,” she added.

The opposition Israeli leader emphasized her party’s historic support for a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, giving a nod to the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin who signed the Oslo Accords with then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. She said the Labor Party knows how “closely attached” the conflict in the West Bank is with the judicial overhaul.

Opposition figures have announced plans to challenge the law limiting the ways a sitting prime minister can be declared unfit in the Supreme Court.

“Like thieves in the night, the coalition just passed a disgraceful and corrupt personalized law in response to a baseless rumour about recusal. Every citizen of Israel should know – days before Passover, while cost of living is soaring, Netanyahu is once more looking out only for himself,” Lapid said on Thursday.

Michaeli said the law that was passed is “a shameful, disgraceful law whose whole purpose is prevent Netanyahu from being sent to prison.”

“This is all that the coalition and this government are doing, with personal legislation and the regime coup. They are sacrificing the State of Israel in order to settle themselves under a corrupt government,” she said.

Netanyahu’s new far-right government has charged ahead with controversial plans to overhaul the country’s judicial system by undermining the Supreme Court, weakening judicial oversight over policymaking.

Netanyahu, who is the first sitting Israeli prime minister to appear in court as a defendant, is on trial for charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery. He denies any wrongdoing.

Protesters have taken to the streets in recent weeks over the government's controversial judicial overhaul.

As part of a deal with the court to serve as a prime minister despite his ongoing trial, Netanyahu agreed to a conflict of interest declaration. The Attorney General then determined the declaration meant Netanyahu could not be involved in the policy making of the judicial overhaul. A petition is currently in front of the Israeli Supreme Court to declare Netanyahu unfit for office on the grounds he has violated that conflict of interest declaration.

For months now, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have regularly taken to the streets to protest the overhaul, saying it will damage Israeli democracy. They’ve been joined by senior figures in Israel’s security, high-tech, financial and academic fields.

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