As climate change increases flood risk in New York City, EDF and its partners are pleased to have received a Stage 2 Civic Innovations grant from the National Science Foundation to explore research and policy innovations that improve climate resilience. The Civic Innovation Challenge is a research and action competition to fund ready-to-implement, research-based pilot projects that have the potential for scalable, sustainable, and transferable impact on community-identified priorities.
New York City, and the region, is experiencing an increase in extreme precipitation events, leading to greater risk of flooding. Research has shown that lower-income residents are disproportionately impacted by disasters, including floods. They typically lack access to the needed financial resources to recover from damaging extreme events. Financial resilience—the ability to recover from an economic shock—underpins other aspects of recovery and is a necessary condition for broader urban disaster resilience. Despite this, it is an under-researched aspect of climate adaptation. And while there has been some work documenting the problems, actionable investigation of solutions is scarce. Our project is designed to fill this gap.
The project’s overarching goal is to increase the financial resilience of low- and moderate-income households in New York City to escalating flood risk through the use of inclusive insurance. Inclusive insurance refers to any program or policy that makes insurance coverage available to those previously unserved or underserved by the market.
Internationally, there has been a growing movement to identify low-cost and appropriate insurance designs and establish public-private partnerships that can guarantee a more equitable recovery, however, these innovations have yet to be widely adopted in the US. Our project will establish NYC as one of the first cities in the US to harness these approaches.
This project is a joint effort between Environmental Defense Fund, the New York City Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice, the Center for New York City Neighborhoods, and SBP. It also involves research and development work with Global Parametrics and technical assistance from Guy Carpenter and Swiss Re Corporate Solutions. Our work is informed by an advisory board of subject-matter experts.
After launch of the pilot, the project team has prepared two reports to share lessons learned.
The first, Harnessing Risk Transfer to Support Immediate Post-Disaster Needs of Low- and Moderate-Income Households shares valuable insights from the design and launch phases of this initiative, providing key lessons for other community organizations, non-profits, or local governments that may wish to explore such a solution in their communities.
The second report, Community-Driven and Research-Informed: Insurance Innovation to Meet Social Needs takes a step back to the early process of concept development. The report documents the process of social innovation, grounded in the needs of the community and driven by research findings, to support other efforts at innovation to better harness risk transfer as a tool for social and environmental goals.
Stage 1 results
The team used Stage 1 as an idea accelerator to examine half a dozen innovative, inclusive insurance interventions and to identify which would be most impactful, implementable, and sustainable. The intensive process involved more than 30 semi-structured expert interviews, exploratory analyses, stakeholder engagement, and consultation with our advisory board.
Our team released an Issue Brief in January 2021 as part of the Stage 1 grant, “Improving the Post-Flood Financial Resilience of Lower-Income Households through Insurance.” This brief is intended to help policymakers begin the conversation about what new or supplemental policies could help low- and moderate-income households in at-risk areas.
Project team members
- Carolyn Kousky, Principal Investigator, Associate Vice President for Economics and Policy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Karina French, Manager, Climate Resilience Research
- Theodora Makris, Senior Policy and Research Associate
- Jessi Penkoff, Staff Attorney
- Cristian Salazar, Director, Communications and Digital Products
- Jessica Wells-Hasan, Vice President of Development & External Affairs
- Tallant Burley, Senior Policy Advisor
- Angela Wong, Senior Policy Advisor
- Helen Wiley, Disaster Preparedness Program Director
- Joseph Becker, Senior Catastrophe Advisor, Hydrologist
- Jonathan Clark, Managing Director
- Guillermo Franco, Managing Director, Global Head of Cat Risk Research
- Cheryl Lorenz, Senior Vice President
- Tom Markovic, Managing Director, Global Head of Parametric Solutions
- Chris Sykes, Managing Director
- Jerry Skees, Founder and Director
- Stephen Beckage, Unit Head, NYC Office of Management and Budget
- Carlos Martin, Rubenstein Fellow, Brookings
Extreme weather: How insurance reform can make recovery faster and fairer
EDF and partners are developing new insurance products that can help bring coverage to more people with less cost, and build resilience to a changing climate.
Reports and Briefs
- Linking Inclusive Finance with Inclusive Insurance in the United States through Community Development Financial Institutions
- Improving the Post-Flood Financial Resilience of Lower-Income Households through Insurance
- Community-Based Catastrophe Insurance: A Model for Closing the Disaster Protection Gap
- The Coming Storm: How U.S. Cities are Managing Stormwater from Increasingly Extreme Rainfall Events
- New York City Stormwater Resiliency Plan
- Why are Floods Hitting More Places and People?
- As Climate Disasters Rise, New York Tests Fast Insurance Payouts
August 29, 2023, Context
- NYC program gives homeowners emergency cash after flooding
March 14, 2023, Politico
- Some Flood Victims Could Get Fast Relief Under a New Pilot Program
March 7, 2023, The City
- Insurance and aid aren’t covering the cost of disasters in America. Is it time to relocate?
January 24, 2022, USA Today (Read for free on Yahoo! News)
- Building Resilience for Low-Income New Yorkers Post-Disaster
November 29, 2021, Government Technology (MetroLab Innovation of the Month series)
- BK Residents Hit Hard by Ida Could Get Flood Insurance if City Program is Adopted
October 12, 2021, BKReader
- Pilot Project Promotes 'Inclusive Flood Insurance' in Vulnerable Areas
October 6, 2021, Brooklyn Daily Eagle