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A first-of-its-kind conference to be held in Bermuda bringing together representatives of governments, the finance sector and the insurance industry.

Specific risks posed by changes to the world’s oceans caused by climate change and other man-made impacts will be considered at the three-day event next May.

The Ocean Risk Summit will focus on how governments and the business sector should respond to the risks of existing and projected changes in the ocean which until recently have been poorly understood.

The summit is being sponsored by XL Catlin along with other scientific and Bermudian-based partners.

The event comes in the midst of rising concern from global governments and businesses about the threats related to changes in the oceans. Last month saw the first-ever United Nations Ocean Conference in New York to discuss the implementation of an ocean-specific sustainable development goal. The upcoming COP23 climate change negotiations are expected to focus more than ever on ocean issues.

The summit will showcase the latest research on the complex and often interrelated changes taking place in the ocean and their potential impacts. For example, ocean temperature increases caused by climate change are leading to rising sea levels and an increase in the intensity of tropical cyclones, thus escalating the impacts of storm surges, coastal flooding, inundation and erosion.

Economist Robert Repetto’s 2012 report Economic and environmental impacts of climate change in Florida estimates that the expected cost of hurricane damage to Miami alone is set to increase from $255 billion in 2020 to $3.5 trillion in 2050.

Other ocean-related risks to be considered include the geopolitical and economic impacts of Arctic sea ice loss, threats to regional food security from overfishing and pollution, as well as the human cost of the spread of tropical diseases from water-borne viruses. The summit will provide expert data and analysis to help businesses and governments identify their potential exposure to these and other ocean risks.

Mike McGavick, XL Catlin’s chief executive officer, said: “The insurance industry should be at the forefront of helping economies prepare for the consequences of climate change.

“Ocean risk means looking at all the ocean-driven implications — not just the societal and environmental — but the geopolitical, legal, economic and regulatory perspectives too.

“We have a responsibility as an industry to drive understanding of how to increase resilience, but also to help those communities that are severely underinsured and less able to adapt to ocean specific risks.”

Other organisations involved in the summit include the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Ocean Unite, Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, Bermuda Business Development Agency and the Bermuda Tourism Authority.

XL Catlin has played a leading role in pushing for greater understanding of the oceans, supporting the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences as well as sponsoring independent scientific research into key indicators of change including extensive work on coral reefs and Arctic sea ice loss.

It has most recently partnered with the International Union for Conservation of Nature to develop scientific analyses of climate-related problems such as ocean warming.

Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of the IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme, welcomed the planned summit as timely.

He said: “As IUCN’s analysis makes clear, ocean warming is possibly the greatest hidden challenge of our generation.

“Whilst coastal and marine communities bear the brunt of ocean warming, overfishing and marine pollution, the consequences go well beyond that and can only be expected to worsen. It is crucial that we use the latest science and work with industry and governments to help increase our resilience in the face of these looming changes.”

Sylvan Richards, the Bermuda Government’s Minister of the Environment, said: “Bermuda is already a hub for both marine science and the insurance industry.

“Our history and geography is inextricably tied to the ocean, and as an island we need to be aware of our vulnerabilities. We face the prospect of rising sea levels and a likely increase in tropical cyclone intensity.

“Our healthy coral reefs are hugely important for both fish stocks and our protection against storms. We need to understand our exposures and act accordingly”.

The Ocean Risk Summit will be held from May 9 to May 11.