Jamaican capital becomes first Caribbean city to join insurance program against climate disasters

Kingston Mayor Delroy Williams signs letter of intent for ICLEI’s Urban Infrastructure Insurance Facility project financed by German government through KfW Development Bank

Kingston, Jamaica, one of the world’s most vulnerable cities to climate change, is the first Caribbean city to participate in a project to create insurance against climate disasters. On 15 March, Mayor Delroy Williams signed the letter of intent for joining the Urban Infrastructure Insurance Facility (UIIF) project, which aims to protect critical infrastructure and poor vulnerable populations in Latin American and Caribbean cities from natural hazards and the consequences of climate change through an insurance mechanism.

The UIIF project is led by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and financed by the German government, through KfW – Development Bank on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ acronym in German). Its purpose is to support the creation and access to insurance as part of disaster risk strategies in Latin American cities.

Also in attendance at the signing were Robert Hill, executive director of the Kingston government; David Wright, local economic development officer, Kingston; Aubyn Hill, Jamaica’s Minister for economic growth and job creation; Paulina Soto, deputy director of programs and projects for ICLEI MECS; and Ivana del Río Benítez, Technical Secretary for ICLEI MECS.

“The Urban Infrastructure Insurance Facility is a priority for my administration and can become a lifeline for the city of Kingston. With Jamaica being the 3rd most exposed country in the world to natural disasters, we consider this instrument critical to our disaster risk reduction framework and thank ICLEI and their partners for this tool. This is a major development in the quest to equip SIDs with tangible and practical elements, useful in disaster risk management. This will save low income cities like Kingston and many other developing states money and resources but even more, it will save lives.” – Mayor of Kingston, Senator & Councillor Delroy Williams, CD

The island nation of Jamaica faces multiple climate risks including sea level rise, stronger tropical storms, rising temperatures, drought and more intense rainfall, according to the USAID’s ClimateLinks. About 90 percent of Jamaica’s $14 billion GDP is produced within its coastal zone, making its economically valuable tourism, industry, fisheries and agriculture assets highly vulnerable to climate variability and change. Weather-related disasters over the past two decades, including those due to droughts, floods, tropical storms and hurricanes, have severely impacted Jamaica’s economic growth.

Kingston’s participation in the UIIF project is the culmination of a series of virtual meetings held since December 2021 between ICLEI Secretariat for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean and the Kingston government. The UIIF is part of the Global Insurance Partnership for Resilience, or InsuResilience (IGP), and aims to support municipal governments in protecting critical urban infrastructure and vulnerable populations from natural disasters caused by extreme weather events.

More about the UIIF project

The UIIF is coordinated and implemented by the ICLEI World Secretariat, the ICLEI Secretariat for South America (ICLEI SAMS) and the ICLEI Secretariat Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean (ICLEI MECS), which will work together to establish regional insurance services by 2025. Technical support and financial subsidies provided by the UIIF are limited to municipal governments that are capable and committed to exploring the potential to include climate risk insurance solutions in their own strategies and framework Municipal Disaster Risk Management Department.

With the expression of interest in participating in the UIIF, Kingston will be able to receive technical and financial support to access urban insurance coverage against increasing risks caused by extreme weather events, through the development of tailor-made insurance products. Over the course of one year, Kingston will dialogue with insurers, financial institutions, organizations and government departments, in order to facilitate the assessment of the city’s exposure to natural disaster risks and the understanding of relevant legal, political and financial conditions, as well as existing gaps in disaster risk financing.

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