Guyana risks losing 12% of GDP to climate change by 2030

-two contradictory impacts of global warming floated

A recent report which seeks to provide a framework for countries to calculate and mitigate climate risks says Guyana is among countries which stand to lose between 1and 12 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually to the effects of climate change.

In the case of Georgetown, when other factors were added, the potential climate-related loss to the year 2030 rises to 19% of GDP.

However, there are insurance solutions available to mitigate the risks.

The Economics of Climate Adaptation Working Group has produced the document, ‘Shaping Climate-Resilient Development: A framework for decision-making’.   The report is based on the initial findings of a study by the Economics of Climate Adaptation Working Group, a partnership between the Global Environment Facility, McKinsey & Company, Swiss Re, the Rockefeller Foundation, ClimateWorks Foundation, the European Commission, and Standard Chartered Bank.

The locations studied as part of this report were in China, Guyana, India, Mali, Samoa, Tanzania, the United Kingdom and the USA. The cases identified were based on “selected climate-sensitive regions and cities in each of these countries, and tested the methodology against a sample of climate hazards, economic impacts and, development stages”. The local study was conducted in Georgetown.

In the report, it was stated that in Guyana’s case, “the limited available data pointed to two possible – and contradictory – impacts of global warming on rainfall patterns: a decrease in rainfall by some 5 percent to 2030,which would lessen flooding, and an increase of 10 percent, which would worsen it significantly.”

The report also said that the risk of rain-induced flash flooding exceeded the capacity of man-made urban and agricultural drainage and was similar across the country.

Head of Sustainability and Emerging Risk Management at Swiss Re Dr David Bresch during a recent interview concerning the report said the locations studied stood to lose between 1 to 12 per cent of GDP annually as a result of existing climate patterns. According to him, “when the effects of economic growth and climate  change are added to these figures, the total potential climate-related loss [up] to 2030 rises to as much as 19 percent of GDP, in the case of Georgetown in Guyana.”

During the interview, Bresch said “the adaptation-cost curves developed in the test cases show that, across the locations studied, between 40 and nearly 100 percent of the expected loss to 2030 can be averted through cost-beneficial risk transfer adaptation measures that are already known and tested.”

According to him, “risk transfer methods include traditional, indemnity-based insurance, parametric index solutions and catastrophe (CAT) bonds, and similar financial mechanisms.” He added that “risk transfer can contribute to making societies more resilient against climate risks, especially in relation to other technical [projects], such as building a dam, or behavioral adaptation measures, such as irrigation practices.” Questioned about the affordability of insurance/ reinsurance products, Bresch said this depended on how “insurance solutions are designed and distributed.” In very poor countries, there are solutions that can be applied to reach the most vulnerable and he said that in other regions, “subsidies help poor farmers to purchase insurance coverage”.

According to the Executive Summary of the report, the initial application of the framework to the eight local test cases generated several important lessons on how decision-makers can best assess the climate risk facing their economies and societies. The implication for decision-makers is that it is possible to undertake a focused, solutions-oriented climate risk assessment in a short space of time.

Among the recommendations were to “create an inclusive national or local effort”. Ideally this would be an official process led by a senior government decision-maker, with significant engagement from the private sector, NGOs and academics, the report stated.

The need to define current and target penetration of the priority measures identified and to “address existing obstacles to development implementation, such as policy frameworks, institutional capability and organization” were also recommendations.

Encouraging sufficient funding from the international community in addition to recognizing and mobilizing different roles for each stakeholder, including governments, NGOs, the private and informal sectors, communities, and individuals, were further recommendations.

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