The Hart of the matter
David Hart is excited about the Bermuda Climate Summit, which takes place at the end of June.
The chief executive officer of the Bermuda Business Development Agency (BDA) says the event, now in its second year, can turbocharge Bermuda’s ambition to become a global leader for climate risk, an area which is still in its early stages of development.
Bermuda is ideally placed to be a business laboratory for this sector, which brings together science and risk management in one place. In addition, Bermuda as a country has a direct interest in its success, since the Island’s future is dependent on mitigating the effects of climate change.
Hart says: “In the time I’ve been here, it’s clear that from the highest officials in government to the average Bermudian on the Island, we recognise that we live in a very special place in the middle of the ocean surrounded by beautiful coral reefs and turquoise seas.
“I think we all share the goal of protecting that for future generations. We build strong in Bermuda, but we also recognise nature is a powerful force and as climate change shifts, coastal and island communities have perhaps the greatest reason to pay careful attention and attempt to make contributions towards protecting our environment and the globe.”
He adds: “But for us, it is a unique opportunity, because we know that Bermuda has three decades of human capital strength built up in the risk space, and many experts here on-Island spend their days and nights assessing weather-related risk.
“The BDA, around two years ago now, launched a climate risk initiative that put us on a trajectory to become a hub and a global leader in climate risk solutions and to help countries and clients around the world meet their objectives when it comes to climate goals.”
Bermuda’s other strength is the depth of scientific knowledge in Bermuda, at the Bermuda Institute for Ocean Sciences (BIOS), which has been measuring the health of the North Atlantic for half a century, and also in the reinsurance sector, which has worked with scientists around the world on natural risks for decades.
This gives Bermuda credibility when launching something like the climate risk initiative and has enabled the BDA to attract a blue riband slate of speakers to this month’s conference.
“I’m so excited about the content, panellists and keynote speakers for this year,” says Hart. “There’s everything from private sector CEOs and investors, to government leaders and scientists across the two days and we are absolutely thrilled to have friends and partners such as BIOS involved in the 2023 Bermuda Climate Summit.”
The conference will be opened by Walter Roban, Bermuda’s Deputy Premier, when he holds what it is being termed a “seaside chat” with Jim Nadler, the CEO of ratings agency and partner sponsor KBRA.
“On day one at lunch, we have our pick of all first-round draft choice: Suzanne Johnson, a senior advisor at the UN for oceans policy. I’ve met her at the last two COPs, 26 and 27, and she’s brilliant.”
Hart says Johnson is likely to discuss the UN Oceans Compact, also known as the High Seas Treaty, signed in March, which aims to protect the biodiversity of the world’s oceans.
She may also float ideas about “blue bonds”, in which conservationists such as The Nature Conservancy buy island and coastal nations’ public debt and refinance it with longer-term or lower interest rates. In return, the governments commit to conserving at least 30 percent of their ocean areas in alignment with global goals and using the money saved from the refinancing to invest in ocean conservation projects.
To date, blue bonds have been used successfully in the Seychelles, and a more ambitious project is underway in Belize.
Hart adds: “There could be some interesting conversations around what blue bonds could look like for Bermuda. Logically, we should be in that space. We’re surrounded by blue and we’re a financial centre.”
The keynote speaker on the second day will be Joshua Rosenberg, the chief risk officer for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, who will be interviewed by past BDA chair Stephen Weinstein.
Hart says the panels are as impressive, including one for investors, a jobs of the future panel “where we’ll talk about skills and training for today’s generation of what jobs they might direct themselves to in this space in the years to come”.
“We also have a deep ocean sequestration panel that I’m very excited to hear about.”
New ideas on climate
Hart admits climate risk is still evolving and it is not simple to predict what kinds of businesses and jobs might grow out of it.
“The truth is it’s still pretty new, so we don’t know 100 percent what it will look like. But we have some good ideas. Much of it is likely to be in the space of funds, such as ESG-related and climate-related funds, that want to target companies reaching net zero or other climate goals or resilience goals.
“We’ve been working with someone who wants to launch a climate tech fund and I think Bermuda is a very logical choice for something like that.
“Things such as blue bonds, green bonds, resilience bonds—given that we’re a financial centre, surrounded by blue, are a logical fit. We have a few of those things already and some are listed on the Bermuda Stock Exchange, but we see potential for great growth there over time,” he explains.
“Every day, I’m seeing more connections between the technology sector and the climate risk sector. And there’s starting to be a merging of the two, where new technologies are allowing for breakthrough solutions. Because we have an initiative around technology, we’re getting a first glimpse of some of these very interesting startups that have big ideas and want to be involved in the climate space.”
Hart says there are also possibilities for collaboration in the fintech and insurtech spaces, where Bermuda is beginning to see some progress after years of painstaking work.
“I’d be stretching to say I’m a tech expert,” he admits. “But I do get the unique front row seat to talk to a lot of the bright people in that space. They’re also very passionate about climate issues, and so many of them, even if their direct business isn’t climate, want to be engaged somehow with what they’re doing with their companies.”
Already, Hart says, many Bermuda-based companies are moving to become as sustainable as possible, while taking part in a climate working group which aims to create “the best Bermuda Climate Summit” to help guide its strategies to attract companies and investment to Bermuda.
He gives credit to the sponsors of the summit, headed by KBRA and including Conduit Re, Aon, Deloitte, Hub Culture, Fidelis, Aspen, Aeolus, AXA XL, and many more, without whom it would not be possible.
For details of the Bermuda Climate Summit, visit www.bda.bm/events/bermuda-climate-summit/