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The Coastal Risk Index

The Coastal Risk Index: Developing a Risk Assessment Tool for Vulnerable Coastal Ecosystems and Communities

Project Lead: AXA XL
Support: University of California Santa Cruz, IHE Delft
Financial Support: AXA XL, Government of Canada, and United Kingdom’s Blue Planet Fund

Summary 

AXA XL, ORRAA’s global lead insurance partner, is working with IHE Delft and the University of California, Santa Cruz to develop a Coastal Risk Index (CRI) that integrates the protective benefits of coastal ecosystems into insurance flood risk models for the first time. The Index uses ground-breaking modelling and a detailed set of global flood maps to help insurers and policymakers quantify the resilience benefits of coastal nature-based solutions and take action to protect valuable ecosystems and build resilience in vulnerable communities. 

Challenge 

Coastal communities around the world are on the front line of climate change and a warming ocean. Coral reefs, mangroves, and other coastal ecosystems are a critical first line of defence for millions of people against mounting climate risks such as coastal flooding and storm surge. Coral reefs for example can dissipate up to 97% of wave energy, reducing the impact to coastlines. However, despite their role in protecting lives and property, their benefits are rarely accounted for in risk industry models, disaster risk reduction strategies, or development priorities.

Solution

ORRAA’s lead global insurance partner AXA XL, is working with IHE Delft and the University of California, Santa Cruz to develop a ground-breaking Coastal Risk Index (CRI), a tool that quantifies the flood-reduction benefits of mangroves and coral reefs for millions of people. The Index provides a new, more detailed way to assess coastal flooding in the context of climate change, modelling flood hazard and storm surge in current conditions and in possible future climate scenarios up to 2050.  

Launched at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), the CRI uses global maps showing flooding with and without coastal ecosystems present in order to demonstrate the importance of mangroves and coral reefs in reducing risks to vulnerable communities.     

Scalability and Next Steps

The Index can inform important decisions for both public and private actors. It enables insurers to price risk more accurately as well as support investors and the development sector in mapping both 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 in building resilience. This in turn could lead to more robust risk reduction strategies to protect and restore these natural assets around the world while at the same time building resilience to coastal flooding for this communities. 

Further work to build out the flood maps will take place in 2022. The CRI will also overlay social vulnerability data with the flood maps with the explicit aim of highlighting where coral reefs and mangroves could have the biggest impact on reducing risk for climate vulnerable coastal communities.