Climate Week NYC 2013: a clean revolution

Climate Week NYC kicked off its opening event with a star-studded cast of high-profile business, government and civil society players calling for strong leadership and swift action on climate change.

Hosted by The Climate Group, Climate Week NYC marks its 5th anniversary in 2013 and features more than 60 high-profile meetings, events and activities organized in and around New York City.

Amidst the backdrop of the opening week of the United Nations and on the heels of the first anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, the global summit – which Swiss Re is the founding sponsor of – called for a move towards a low carbon economy; a clean revolution.

What does that mean? It means affordable energy, job growth in the renewable energy sector and investment in innovation. Action can't come soon enough as earlier this year carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere topped 400 parts per million.  To put that in perspective: the last time levels were that high was five million years ago.

At the global forum's opening ceremony, Swiss Re America Holding Corporation Chairman Philip Ryan joined World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, among others, to collectively call for action and an increased societal resilience.

Critical mass behind climate change

Climate Week NYC will see the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's fifth assessment of the science of climate change.

The findings from the IPCC report are clear: man-made climate change, with 95 percent certainty, is happening.

Speaking of the report, Blair stated to a standing-room only crowd, that the findings will "shock political leaders into action" and that there are "no longer serious doubts [about climate change] in the minds of serious people."

The event demonstrated the groundswell of support from all sectors of the global community – from business to government and everyone in between. This week is the tipping point for action.

Swiss Re fully endorses the need to act on climate change. Ryan pointed out that as a company that has 150 years' experience dealing with natural catastrophe risk, "everything we see points to the fact that climate change is something that we cannot ignore."

He added: "In 2012 those [of severe weather] impacts cost the global economy some $160bn, with $70 billion of that being covered by insurance."

Following the opening ceremony Swiss Re hosted an expert panel titled: Rethinking Resiliency – one year after Sandy.

Hosted by TIME magazine's Bryan Walsh, Ryan again participated alongside Gary Guzy, White House Council on Environmental Quality; Richard Kauffman, Chair of the Energy Policy & Finance Sub-Cabinet, State of New York; Daniel Zarrilli, Director of Resilience for New York City and Judith Rodin, President of The Rockefeller Foundation.  The panel explored how we approach building a climate resilient society and minimize the impacts of severe weather events.

Where there is challenge, there is opportunity

From a long-term perspective, climate change will be one of the most difficult challenges for the insurance industry.  

But where there are challenges, there are opportunities. As Richard Branson stated: "Climate change is the entrepreneurial opportunity of our time."

With the insurance industry's ability to transfer risk, there is an enormous opportunity to help clients to develop new innovative ways to manage the financial impacts when severe weather strikes as well as the risks associated with the renewable energy industry.

To further strengthen Swiss Re's commitment to the climate change effort, the company has become a founding partner in The Climate Group and United Nation Global Compact's new initiative which aims to recruit 100 corporations to commit to sourcing 100 percent of their energy requirements from renewable energy sources by 2020. The official launch of this initiative will happen during COP 19, Warsaw, November 2013.

While it is clear that tremendous work is needed, it is also clear that the seeds of a clean revolution are taking root.

Published 25 September 2013

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