The Coastal Risk Index (CRI): Developing a Risk Assessment Tool for Vulnerable Coastal Ecosystems and Communities
Project Lead: ORRAA
Supporting partners: AXA XL, HE Delft and the University of California – Santa Cruz
Financial Support: AXA XL, the Government of Canada, the UK’s Blue Planet Fund and the United States Department of State.
The Coastal Risk Index (CRI), launched during Climate Week NYC 2023, is an innovative modelling tool designed to calculate coastal flood hazards under different climate change scenarios and quantify the potential risk reduction benefits of coral reefs and mangroves for coastal communities around the world.
The Index can inform important decisions for both the public and private sector. It enables insurers to price risk more accurately, as well as support investors and the development sector in mapping both potential future liabilities and investment opportunities where nature-based solutions provide resilience benefits. It also seeks to support public policymakers in understanding the exposure of their communities to coastal hazards while demonstrating the importance of proactive coastal ecosystem management for building resilience. This in turn could lead to more robust risk reduction strategies to protect and restore these natural assets around the world.
The CRI estimates that 14.2 million more people would be flooded annually without the protection of mangroves and coral reefs.
With climate change intensifying, coastal communities are grappling with increased vulnerabilities from flood risks and ecosystem degradation, which not only threatens biodiversity, but also amplifies the risk to infrastructure, economies, and lives. Coastal ecosystems are a first line of defence against climate risks such as flooding and storm surges. The CRI estimates that 14.2 million more people would be flooded annually without the protection of mangroves and coral reefs. However, despite their role, policymakers and investors often lack comprehensive data on the value of these ecosystems when making decisions about coastal resilience strategies. As a result, coastal ecosystems and their benefits are rarely accounted for in risk industry models, disaster risk reduction strategies, or development priorities.
The CRI is a ground-breaking, open-source modelling tool that harnesses the power of data to enable investors, insurers, and policymakers to better assess and understand coastal risk. It encompasses hydrodynamic models to map flood risk at 90-metre resolution in current climate conditions and potential scenarios in 2030 and 2050, including the anticipated impacts on communities and coastal assets. Most importantly, it models flooding with and without the protection of coastal ecosystems, which helps to quantify the value of habitats like reefs and mangroves in protecting communities. It also assesses the impact of flood risk on social and economic vulnerability and how nature-based solutions can be leveraged to build resilience for the most vulnerable.
Scalability and Next Steps
With financial support from the United States Department of State, the CRI’s initial platform and maps were launched in September 2023 by ORRAA in partnership with IHE Delft, and the University of California Santa Cruz to maximise its potential as a tool for local resilience practitioners and risk industry stakeholders. The CRI has also been financially backed by AXA, the Government of Canada, and the UK’s Blue Planet Fund. Explore the CRI here.
ORRAA is currently working with the University of California Santa Cruz on case studies to build on the CRI’s global maps and apply its data in a local context. The first will assess coastal flood risk in the Dominican Republic to highlight the benefits of coral reefs and mangroves in reducing current and potential hazards. The study will also examine whether flooding disproportionately impacts vulnerable people and how nature-based solutions can be leveraged to build resilience along the Dominican Republic’s coastline. In addition, ORRAA will be further developing the CRI Platform and will conduct a series of workshops to understand user needs and how the data can be implemented in practice.