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Ceres and Heinz Center Launch Resilient Coasts Initiative

Broad coalition looking to reduce risk of climate change in coastal communities

Ceres and the Heinz Center today announced the launch of the Resilient Coasts Initiative, a first-of-its-kind collaboration of private and public sector groups to find public policy and private market solutions to better protect coastal communities from rising sea levels and other potentially damaging consequences of climate change.
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May 07, 2008

BOSTON – Ceres and the Heinz Center today announced the launch of the Resilient Coasts Initiative, a first-of-its-kind collaboration of private and public sector groups to find public policy and private market solutions to better protect coastal communities from rising sea levels and other potentially damaging consequences of climate change.

The national project brings together a broad coalition of insurers, regulators, politicians, environmental organizations, real estate developers and investors to address the need for climate adaptation to reduce ever-increasing coastal risks associated with climate change in the United States. Key participants include American International Group, Inc. (AIG), Travelers, Risk Management Solutions and the chief financial officer of the State of Florida.

“Coastal protection needs to be part of our national conversation on climate change,” said Ceres president Mindy S. Lubber, in announcing the joint venture with the Heinz Center at the Ceres conference in Boston last week.  “This is an historic moment in which public and private sector leaders recognize the rising threat of climate change in coastal communities and the need for strong policies and market-based solutions to reduce that exposure,” Lubber said.

“This is a project about action -- the steps we can take, the things we can do,” added Thomas E. Lovejoy, president of the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment.  The Center’s extensive experience in coastal hazards prompted this initiative. “When we're all getting tired of rhetoric, we are seizing the opportunity to establish a blueprint for protecting our most vulnerable places and people,” Lovejoy said.

With more than the half of the population living along the coast, the United States is acutely vulnerable to rising sea levels and other impacts from climate change. Cities like Miami are just starting to recognize the threat of rising sea levels where even modest sea level rise could threaten billions of dollars of real estate and economic activity. Stronger hurricanes in recent years have already caused tens of billions of dollars of losses along the Gulf Coast.

Over the next 12 months key priorities for the Resilient Coasts Initiative are to identify policy and market-based solutions that may include initiatives to:

  • Limit new development in the most vulnerable areas
  • Strengthen and upgrade existing buildings to prevent further losses
  • Promote infrastructure investments that will help communities adapt to sea level rise.

Presenters at the kickoff meeting included Howard Kunreuther, Co-Director of the Risk Management and Decision Processes Center at Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and Celine Herweijer, Director and Principal Scientist of the Climate Change Practice at Risk Management Solutions (RMS) who addressed the far-reaching economic implications of rising losses along the coast and the adaptation tools that will help reduce those losses, even as risks increase.

Participants discussed policy and business solutions to manage coastal climate risks. Some suggested using carbon trading revenues to fund programs that protect coastal areas.   Others noted the importance of valuing coastal wetlands, barrier islands and reefs that provide natural protection from storms.  Also considered was the need for insurance premiums to reflect real risks in coastal areas.

The Heinz Endowments in Pittsburgh provided seed funding for the Resilient Coasts Initiative.  Other key sponsors are AIG, The Travelers Companies, Inc. and the Alcoa Foundation. Risk Management Solutions is contributing substantial technical expertise on climate-driven catastrophe and adaptation modeling.

Attending the meeting were representatives from AIG, Travelers, Swiss Re, Lloyd’s of London, A.M. Best, Deutsche Asset Management, Citi Smith Barney, Calvert Group,  Bonita Bay Group, Jonathan Rose Companies, The Nature Conservancy, RiskMetrics Group, MIT Sloan School of Management, US Business Council on Sustainable Development, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Maryland Insurance Administration, Coastal States Organization, Center for Clean Air Policy,  the Institute for Business and Home and Safety, and the office of the chief financial officer in Florida.

For more information, contact Sharlene Leurig, manager of the insurance program at Ceres (leurig@ceres.org) or Christophe A. G. Tulou (tulou@heinzctr.org), Director of the Resilient Coasts Initiative.

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