Turning talk into action: Climate Week panel highlights ways to protect vulnerable people and economies

For the second year in a row, Swiss Re is proud to be the founding sponsor of Climate Week NYC. On the opening day of Climate Week 2010, Swiss Re and the Climate Group hosted a high-level panel discussion on climate adaptation in the developing world. During the session, senior policymakers, business leaders and development practitioners discussed practical solutions to make societies more resilient to the growing risks of climate change.

Climate change means more severe weather, which can cost lives and cause more damage to property and assets. While people can't control the weather, they can control their response to it. The developing world is uniquely exposed to the impacts of climate change partly because its capacity to adapt is often limited. The economic effects of current climate impacts can amount to between 2-12% of GDP annually.

If not addressed, developing countries will face even larger drags of their economic development as climate change becomes more pronounced. The faster societies can respond and rebuild, the better for the economy as a whole.

Increasing the resiliency of developing countries to climate risk was the topic of a panel discussion held on the opening day of Climate Week in New York City. Co-sponsored by The Climate Group and Swiss Re, the event brought together senior representatives from government, business and the wider development community to explore measures that can help make societies more resilient to the growing risks of climate change.

Matthias Weber, Member of the Group Management Board of Swiss Re, commented that adaptation to climate should be part of any development strategy for emerging countries and risk transfer can be a key element. "The insurability of natural catastrophes and climate-related risk depends as much on social and environmental policies, urban and geographic planning, as it does on physical defences and disaster planning," said Weber. "Effective and sustainable adaptation therefore demands a comprehensive risk management approach that is also firmly embedded in a broader strategy of economic growth and development."

Weber was joined on the panel by Veerle Vandeweerd, Director of Environment and Energy Group, United Nations Development Programme; Mark Kenber, Deputy CEO, The Climate Group and Ray Offenheiser, President, Oxfam America and Andrew Steer, Special Envoy for Climate Change, World Bank. The discussion was moderated by Milo Pearson, Chairman, Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility. Opening remarks were delivered by Walter Bell, Chairman, Swiss Re America Holding Corporation. The keynote address was given by Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

"Rich countries have funds to help themselves recover from extreme events," said Figueres. "Poor countries don’t. Disasters tend to throw them back by years and years in their development."

She continued: "As a result, it is prudent for countries to look at spreading risks across multiple countries or regions, for example through innovative risk sharing and transfer mechanisms."

Said Weber: "Increasing the resiliency of developing countries to climate risk is about protecting lives and livelihoods. It is also about protecting development made in the past and promoting the conditions that will allow development in the future."

Published: 21 September 2010

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