Why insurers care about climate change

Given Swiss Re's role as an ultimate risk taker, we are uniquely exposed to the impacts of climate change. We identified climate change as an emerging risk some 20 years ago, and the concern has since evolved into an important component of the company’s long-term risk management strategy.

Our actions are based on the premise that it is in the interest of our shareholders, clients and employees, the wider stakeholder community and society in general to tackle this issue. Together with UNEP, we hosted a roundtable and gathered industry leaders to prioritise ways the insurance industry can promote climate-resilient development, discuss key insurance policy and regulatory reforms that could support this process, and strengthen international cooperation to tackle the issue.

If unmitigated, climate change could cost the world economy around 20% of global GDP by the end of this century. Insurance can help to reduce the risks and uncertainties of climate change by protecting economies against the financial costs of climate-related disasters, and by unlocking critical investments in renewable energy and the low-carbon economy.

The roundtable was held in Rüschlikon, Zurich, between the 11-12 May 2015. It was attended by representatives from a range of property and life re/insurers, regulatory from across Europe, the US and the Philippines, development organizations, ratings agencies and the UN. An overarching objective was to explore insurers' preparation for the UN Climate Change Conference being held in Paris (COP-21) this December.

"Several areas of action for the insurance industry based on its in depth knowledge on climate related business impacts have been identified" says David Bresch, Global Head of Sustainability at Swiss Re.  "They span from knowledge sharing on mitigation to smart adaptation of cities and countries to cope with climate change, as we show in our publications on the Economics of Climate Adaption."

For in depth information read the report "Insurance 2030: Policies and partnerships for sustainable development"

In addition to hosting the conference, Swiss Re is already actively pushing industry dialogue in the lead-up to COP-21. In April this year, Swiss Re CEO Michel Liès joined 42 Fortune 500 CEOs seeking concrete steps towards a global climate deal at the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference. Mr Liès is also a member of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.

Published 28 May 2015

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