Building climate resilient cities in the US and Canada

Swiss Re and partners spread the message of urban resilience through a series of workshops in North America.

In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy made landfall along the densely populated US East Coast, devastating homes and businesses, and heavily damaging major urban infrastructure including roads, mass transit, bridges, and water and electricity systems.

In the summer 2013, two separate rainfall events in Canada - one in Alberta and a second in Toronto - triggered catastrophic flooding and set record-breaking levels of damage and loss from natural catastrophes in the country.

These are the latest in a series of extreme weather events in North America and around the world. All send a clear message that we need to better prepare our cities to withstand the impacts of severe weather and climate change, even while we strengthen our work to slow and reverse global warming.

Working together for urban resilience

Swiss Re has partnered with a number of organizations, including CERES and ClimateWise, to design and deliver workshops in the US and Canada to promote urban resilience.

Urban resilience is an imperative of the insurance industry as it reduces losses, promotes the maintenance of insurability, and presents opportunities for innovative risk transfer and insurance solutions to help manage climate risk. 

By building public-private partnerships, city leadership and the insurance sector have the power to take the lead in building urban resilience and protecting lives and property.

Kickstarting the resilient city

The workshops bring together partners from the insurance industry and municipal stakeholders in Boston, San Diego and Toronto, with the aim of creating collaboration channels to reduce risks.

During the most recent workshop in June, participants realized the need to establish the acceptable level of risk appetite in any specific location. They also discussed how a "resilience zone" could be developed and how a Chief Resilience Officer might offer a new approach to governance needed to align measures to develop resilience at both the asset and district level.

Efforts to build urban resilience in cities have historically been led by public policy and planning approaches. However, the pace and scale of investment and behavior change required to ensure cities are prepared for future risks mean that the private sector has a crucial and catalytic role to play.  Insurers, working with other partners, can use their strategic view of societal risk management to propel our thinking and focus on what needs to be done to head off these risks.

Published 19 November 2013

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