Coastal zones are critical to life and livelihoods, people and planet. They are conduits to trade, to communications, they provide resources and livelihoods, they are often centers of economic growth. Critical coastal ecosystems underpin a number of key economic sectors, including tourism, fisheries, mineral extraction, oil and construction. The ocean-economy, covering broad categories of employment and ecosystem services is estimated at between USD 3-6 trillion a year. And these areas are, of course, centers of population; already, half of the world’s population lives within 60 kilometers of a coast, and more than 600 million people (10% of the world’s population) live in coastal areas that are less than 10 meters above sea level.
These critical zones are under intense threat. Our changing climate is making sea levels rise and flooding more frequent, with storms intensifying in severity, while water-tables are increasingly tainted by sea-water intrusion and coastal waters are increasing in temperature and acidity. This is having a significant impact on coastal lives and livelihoods, undermining fishing, tourism, biodiversity and much more. These increasing climate effects and their corresponding consequences for countries, communities and households (especially the most vulnerable), necessitate a new level of understanding of risk and awareness about resilience. The World Bank recently identified for example the impact of extreme disasters as equivalent to a global USD 520 billion loss in annual consumption, forcing some 26 million people into poverty each year.
This report was produced through a collaboration between the United Nations Development Programme and The Nature Conservancy, to highlight what is being done, and moreover, what more can be done to protect coastal zones through emerging insurance mechanisms.