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Absorbing Climate Impacts



How can climate risk insurance be linked with other forms of social protection to help vulnerable communities absorb climate impacts?
Submit Proposals:
Rules:All entrants must agree to the Contest rules and Terms of Use
Deadline:Sunday, Mar 11, 2018 at 20:00:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Judging Criteria & Prizes:See below.


About UN Climate Resilience Initiative A2R

The UN Climate Resilience Initiative A2R: Anticipate, Absorb, Reshape is a global multi-stakeholder initiative launched by the former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during COP21 in Paris. The Initiative strengthens climate resilience for most vulnerable countries and people and brings together governments, international agencies, regional initiatives, the private sector, civil society and academia. The Initiative accelerates action on three key capacities of climate resilience:


About InsuResilience Global Partnership

The InsuResilience Global Partnership for Climate and Disaster Risk Finance and Insurance Solutions brings to­gether countries, civil society, international organizations, the private sector, and academia. The vision of the InsuResilience Global Partnership is to strengthen the resilience of developing countries and protect the lives and livelihoods of poor and vulnerable people against the impacts of disasters through sup­porting the disaster risk financing strategy and archi­tecture of vulnerable countries, depending on country circumstances.

The Partnership was welcomed jointly by the G20 leaders at their summit in Hamburg this year and builds on existing efforts such as InsuResilience, which aims to provide insurance to 400 million poor and vulnerable people in developing countries. The Partnership contributes to exchange, coordination, and the advancement of capacities in the field of climate and disaster risk finance and insurance.

The central objective of the Partnership is twofold: to enable countries to carry out more timely and reliable post-disaster response, and to enable them to better prepare for climate and disaster risk through the use of risk finance and insurance. Meeting these goals will reduce humanitarian impacts, help poor and vulnerable people recover more quickly, and strengthen local resilience over time. This approach complements ongoing efforts in countries to prevent, reduce and adapt to climate and disaster risks. Working together with all interested stakeholders, the Partnership promotes the adoption and enables the expansion of disaster risk finance and insurance coverage in developing countries as part of comprehensive climate risk management.


Key Issues

1. Impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities

The negative impacts of climate change can take the form of shocks such as such as floods or storms, or longer-term stresses such as droughts or changing rainfall patterns.  Climate-related shocks and stresses pose significant challenges to poverty reduction, and climate change could result in an additional 100 million people living in extreme poverty by 2030 (Hallegatte et al., 2016). Poor and vulnerable populations are particularly at risk from climate change impacts due to their higher exposure to extreme weather events. They are often also least able to prevent, cope with and adapt to climate impacts and often lose more in relative terms in the case of an extreme weather event. This compounds a higher risk of falling (back) into poverty due to the impacts of climate change.

2. What is social protection?

Social protection refers to a wide set of policies and programmes that aim to reduce poverty and vulnerability.  Social protection is often divided into three types: social assistance, social insurance and labour market interventions, as illustrated with examples in the table below:


3. How can social protection help communities to cope with climate impacts?

a) Social protection can help people anticipate and prevent shocks and stresses before they happen, by taking early action and by improving incomes and livelihoods (Costella et al, 2016).

b) After a shock, social protection can help people absorb the impacts by providing direct support to affected populations and by preventing some of their negative consequences (Costella et al., 2016).

c) Social protection can also help improve and diversify livelihoods, reduce poverty and vulnerability in the long term, and increase adaptive capacity to deal with future climate risks (Costella et al., 2016). 


To ensure that social protection can effectively reduce vulnerability to climate risks, it needs to be ‘shock-responsive’. This means that social protection systems are designed to respond flexibly in the event of an emergency and can be rapidly scaled up.


4. What is climate risk insurance?

Despite significant mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, states and societies need to prepare for the unavoidable impacts of extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change. Adaptation and disaster risk management efforts can significantly reduce but not eliminate negative impacts of extreme weather events.

Innovative solutions of risk transfer, such as climate risk insurance, help to prepare for these risks. Insurance is most effective in combination with adaptation and disaster risk management, since these avoid or limit negative impacts as far as possible in the first place. For example, governments can take precautionary measures to better protect coastal areas and their inhabitants from extreme weather events, e.g. construction of improved road systems or reforestation of mangrove forests.

Climate risk insurance protects people, businesses and states from the adverse effects of climate-related extreme weather events such as droughts, floods and tropical cyclones and reduces the burden, as risks are spread across many shoulders even before potential damage occurs.

If implemented in the right way, climate risk insurance can be regarded as one type of social protection tool to be embedded into wider social protection frameworks.

Climate risk insurance can be implemented at three levels:

There are different types of insurance products that correspond to these levels, with indemnity-based insurance and index insurance two main types:


5. How can climate risk insurance help communities to cope with climate impacts?

a) Financial liquidity

Insurance can provide timely finance that improves financial liquidity shortly after or even before a shock. Compared to humanitarian assistance, which often takes a very long time to reach the beneficiaries, this type of support can act as a safety net and buffer for people, businesses and countries.

Without insurance coverage, people affected by a disaster may resort to coping strategies that put them at risk to fall back into poverty. For instance, by selling their assets or reducing their food consumption, they may trade off their basic needs or income sources.  Timely and reliable payouts, sometimes even before a shock arrives, can enable households to protect their livelihoods and undertake more effective risk coping strategies.


b) Unlocking opportunities

Insurance can act as a security net for the insured and provide incentives to invest more in their insured assets during non-pay out periods.


c) Catalyzing risk assessment

Some cases show that insurance programs were able to catalyze risk assessment by increasing farmers’ sensitivity towards changing rainfall patterns by incorporating training (as is the case with the African Rural Resilience Initiative) and installing weather stations.


d) Improving post-disaster decision-making

Through premium prices, insurers can set behavioral incentives that can encourage risk reduction.


6. Why link climate risk insurance and other types of social protection?

Vulnerable households have to cope with a number of different shocks at the same time. Ideally, insurance products should therefore address several types of shocks and stresses induced by climate change. Linking insurance with broader social protection networks could enhance households’ and communities’ ability to absorb climate shocks and stresses, improve their ability to reduce and manage risk and reduce poverty.

Approaches combining insurance with other types of social protection can also contribute to reducing transaction costs while making the insurance product easier to communicate and more consistent with other support received by households (Waters & Schaeffer, 2016).

Targeting is a strong suit of social protection schemes, and insurance could capitalize on this when trying to effectively reach their target group. Insurance can also strengthen social protection systems and safety nets: Insurers bring important risk assessment skills and can help social systems share the costs of larger shocks. Handling claims and contributory payments are ways in which insurance can improve the efficiency of social protection schemes, particularly in countries with weak governance and public administration.

Some of the possible ways of linking  climate risk insurance and other types of social protection include:

While combining insurance with broader social protection measures is one option for synergies in enhancing the ability of vulnerable communities to absorb climate impacts, there is a need for integrated and flexible strategies for managing climate risk, with a range of measures appropriate for different types of shocks and stresses and affected populations.


7. What are the limitations of social protection and climate risk insurance in helping vulnerable communities absorb climate shocks and stresses?

There are limits to the ability of social protection to support communities in absorbing climate impacts. Social protection may be less effective at protecting against prolonged adverse trends, such as sea level rise. If shocks and stresses become too frequent and intense, social safety nets become inefficient and livelihood changes are needed (Hallegatte et al., 2016).

Similarly, insurance is not an appropriate measure for all climate change impacts, including slowly developing and foreseeable events or processes that happen with high certainty, such as glacier melt or sea level rise.  Climate risk insurance would not be appropriate for disastrous weather-related events that occur with very high frequency, such as recurrent flooding.

As climate change will increase the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, there may come a time when some risks become so severe that they are uninsurable. Slow onset events such as sea level rise and desertification are already uninsurable and will need to be addressed by other risk management measures. An increased risk could lead to higher premiums with currently insurable risks, making the product too expensive for the poor or the actors who pay premiums on their behalf.


Judging Criteria

We are calling for proposals that outline an innovative, practical solution combining climate risk insurance with other forms of social protection to help vulnerable communities absorb climate impacts.  Proposals could take the form of new schemes, products or methodologies or build on existing approaches. 

This contest seeks proposals that:


Proposals can be at any stage of development:


Judges will be asked to evaluate proposals on the following criteria:

  1. Feasibility: Feasibility of the actions proposed in the proposal. Judges with different kinds of expertise will evaluate the technical, economic, social, and political feasibility of the proposals. 
  2. Impact: Impact and ability of the actions proposed to contribute to vulnerable communities’ ability to  absorb and cope with climate shocks and stresses. This includes the impact of the proposal in reaching a number of vulnerable people on the ground and the magnitude of the proposal’s impact on communities’ and individuals’ capacity to absorb.
  3. Novelty: Novelty of the proposal's ideas. Innovative thinking and originality in a proposal will be valued more than encyclopedic knowledge.
  4. Presentation Quality: Proposals that are well-presented will be favored over those that aren't. Presentation quality includes how well written a proposal is, how well it uses graphics or other visual elements, and how compelling are its artistic representations of possible future worlds (if any). Semi-finalists will also evaluated on the quality of the proposed detailed budget for the use of seed funding for implementation.


The Climate CoLab Impact Assessment Fellows can help you estimate the potential impact your proposal can have on preventing fatalities and damages, which the Judges will take into consideration when assessing your proposal.  See your proposal's Impact tab for more details.

Judges will evaluate proposals, and deliberate as a group to select the Semi-Finalists, Finalists, Winners, and possibly other awardee(s) at their discretion.  Judgments of desirability are also made in the final stage of the contest, by the Climate CoLab community through popular vote, and by the Judges through their selection of the Judges' Choice winner(s).

For the contest schedule and phases, please see the blue schedule bar on the contest.



The Judges' Choice Winner will be selected by the judging panel.  The UN Climate Resilience Initiative A2R and InsuResilience will provide the Judges’ Choice Winner with seed funding for implementation of the proposal (worth 40,000 euros) and mentoring, training and technical assistance (worth 12,000 euros) as outlined below.

Seed funding for implementation of the winning proposal (worth 40,000 euros)
The Judges' Choice Winner will receive seed funding to support the implementation of the winning proposal. The funding will be spent according to a budget submitted by the team, to be agreed on with the contest organisers. Budgets detailing how the seed funding would be spent will be requested from semi-finalists to the contest. The terms and conditions associated with the seed funding will be set out in an agreement with the winning team.

Mentoring, training and technical assistance (worth 12,000 euros)
Mentoring, training and technical assistance will be provided to the  Judges' Choice Winner. Suitable mentors will be identified to support the implementation of the winning proposal, with online and face-to-face mentoring provided on a monthly basis for the duration of three months. In addition, a training and technical assistance plan will be developed with the winning team, with the support of the mentors identified. The form of support will be determined depending on the team’s needs but could include a relevant training course or a field study on a relevant topic.  The details will be set out in an agreement with the winning team.

The Judges' Choice Winner will also receive wide recognition and visibility by MIT Climate CoLab.

The Popular Vote Winner will be chosen by popular vote, at the Finalist stage of the contest. The Popular Vote Winner will win an expenses-paid trip (including flight, accommodation, and meals to attend the InsuResilience Global Partnership Forum in 2018 during COP24, where the winner will be given the opportunity to present the proposal to a community of practitioners, policymakers and private sector representatives.

Additional awards and prizes may be given by either the Judges or MIT Climate CoLab in order to recognize other top proposals.  See contest rules for details.


Resources for Proposal Authors


UN Climate Resilience Initiative:


UN Climate Resilience Initiative (2017) Anticipate, Absorb, Reshape: Current progress on three key capacities for climate resilience. Available at:

Hallegatte, S et al. (2016) Shock Waves: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty. Climate Change and Development Series. Washington, DC: World Bank. Available at:


Climate risk insurance

Schaefer, L. and Waters, E. (2016) Climate risk insurance for the poor & vulnerable: How to effectively implement the pro-poor focus of InsuResilience. Munich Climate Insurance Initiative. Available at:

GIZ and KfW (2015) Climate risk insurance for strengthening climate resilience of poor people in vulnerable countries. A background paper on challenges, ambitions and perspectives. Available at:

Clarke, D. and Dercon, S. (2016) Dull disasters? How planning ahead will make a difference. Available at:

See more at: and


Social protection

Béné, C. et al. (2014) Social Protection and Climate Change, OECD Development Co-operation Working Papers, No. 16, OECD Publishing, Paris. Available at:

Ulrichs, M. (2016) Increasing people’s resilience through social protection. Resilience Intel, Issue 6. BRACED. Available at:

Ulrichs, M. and Slater, R. (2016). How can social protection build  resilience?  Insights from Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. BRACED working paper. Available at:

Costella, C. et al., (2017) 7 things to know about managing climate risk through social protection. BRACED. Available at:



R4 Rural Resilience Initiative :

Kenya Hunger Safety Network Programme:

Index-Based Livestock Insurance:

Merttens, F., et al., (2013) Kenya Hunger Safety Net Programme monitoring and evaluation component. Impact evaluation report: 2009 to 2012. Oxford: OPM. Available at:

World Bank (2016) Kenyan Farmers to Benefit from Innovative Insurance Program, 12 March 2016. Available at:


Photo credit: Aysan Amirghiyasvand (Instagram: photomundial_)