Swiss Re signs open letter to businesses for action on climate change

Swiss Re's CEO Michel Li├Ęs joins 42 Fortune 500 CEOs seeking concrete steps toward a global climate deal at the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference.

In "Let’s partner on climate action. Now.," an open letter published in the Financial Times and on, company leaders call on businesses to establish explicit or implicit prices on carbon through market-based approaches or legislative measures.

According to the letter, released on the eve of the 2015 World Bank Spring Meeting, doing so will trigger low carbon investment and significantly transform current emission patterns. The goal of the letter is to prompt those attending the UN Climate Change Conference being held in Paris (COP 21) this December into action.

"Sustained growth cannot be achieved unless we address the risks associated with climate change," says Swiss Re CEO Michel Liès, who also signed the open letter. Liès is a member of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.

"To realize growth opportunities, governments and businesses must therefore actively manage climate and other environmental risks and incorporate them in their economic and development strategies, as well as in their investment decisions."

Spearheading renewable energy

The open letter also acknowledges that businesses have to set a positive example. The signatories commit to taking voluntary action to reduce environmental and carbon footprints, setting targets to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions and/or energy consumption while also collaborating in supply chains and at sectorial levels.

Swiss Re started the road to being CO2 neutral in 2003. We're also  a founding member of RE100, a campaign that aims to secure the commitment of 100 of the world's largest multinational companies to use 100% renewable energy by 2020.

We can't afford inaction any longer

Annual insured losses from weather-related events have jumped more than five-fold over the last 40 years, from USD 5 billion in the 1970s and '80s to USD 27 billion in the last 20 years.  So far, the main driver has been economic development leading to a higher concentration of values in exposed areas.

But climate change will aggravate the situation. If unmitigated, it could cost the world economy around 20% of global GDP by the end of this century. If growth targets and climate risk are not addressed together, most countries will experience poor economic performance, and climate risks will grow until they become unmanageable.

USD 10 billion against climate change

And they are already unmanageable for many smaller countries. Cyclone Pam showed what extreme weather can do to a society when it struck Vanuatu. It also proved the value of insurance. Vanuatu received USD 1.9 million from the World Bank's Pacific Catastrophe Risk Insurance Pilot, a project in which Swiss Re is a contributing partner. For rebuilding the lives of 300,000 citizens in a small island nation this means a lot. And Swiss Re has committed to advising 50 sovereigns and sub-sovereigns on climate risk resilience and has offered protecting of USD 10 billion against this risk.

Partnering on know-how and protection

The Financial Times open letter is just one of the ways focus on the effects of climate change. Our partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation for 100 Resilient Cities and providing our exposure data for risky cities are few more.  We also help provide the backbone for climate resilient economies with the Economics of Climate Adaption and by sharing our data on and insurance for one of the most endangered and important part of many economies threatened by climate change: agriculture.

We do our share: by speaking up when necessary, sharing with our partners the know-how and skills we have and last but not least by helping people and societies to rebuild their lives when disaster strikes. Because being able to recover will be a key aspect of sustainability in our future.

Published 17 April 2015

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