Impressions from the UN Climate Action Summit: Are we finally at the tipping point?
There are moments in time when multiple forces come together, and you sense a major shift taking place that can change the course of history. Being in New York during the UN Climate Summit 2019 seems like such a time.
New York was indeed a buzzing hive, where my colleague Ivo Menzinger and I were swept up in the climate discussions, weaving from meeting to meeting across the city, as well as the UN Headquarters. Greta Thunberg's distraught face and compelling messages appeared everywhere, with hundreds of thousands of people - young and old – milling in the streets in support of her cause.
For a long time (over 30 years!) Swiss Re felt like a lone voice when it came to climate resilience, and it's encouraging that business leaders and governments around the world are increasingly recognizing both the issue and that insurance can play an instrumental role in enabling their efforts towards greater climate resilience.
For context, Swiss Re was one of the first private sector companies to make a commitment during the UN Climate Summit in 2014, leading up to the Paris Agreement in 2015. At the time, we committed USD 10bn in risk absorbing capacity to assist 50 governments and public sector entities to become more climate resilient by 2020, through improved risk management practices and innovative insurance solutions. We've come a long way since and a lot has been achieved. To date, we have exceeded our advisory target and are very close to reach our capacity offering target. But it has been mostly a ‘push’ exercise for the last 5 years.
Seeing the climate crisis unfolding at unprecedented speed right before our eyes, it's clear that tremendous efforts to accelerating mitigation and adaptation action towards a low carbon economy will still be needed in an ever more compressed timeframe, and individual goodwill will not cut it. We need to work in coalitions.
Coordinated by our Sustainability Unit in partnership with our Business Units, Swiss Re continues its quest to pioneer climate action announcing four new commitments during the UN Climate Summit:
- "Business Ambition for 1.5°C" as part of the Campaign for Our Only Future
- “Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance” led within Swiss Re by our Asset Management colleagues
- Switzerland-focused “CEO4Climate Letter” to the members of the Swiss Council of States
- and last but not least, the commitment between UNDP, the Governments of Germany and the UK, and members of the Insurance Development Forum (IDF) to increase reinsurance protection by USD 5 billion, benefitting 500 million people in the twenty most climate-vulnerable countries. The aim is to accelerate the implementation of risk management and risk financing solutions as a means to strengthening adaptation measures and the resilience to climate risks in these areas.
Staying with IDF, I would also like to highlight a content rich report launched during Climate Action Week entitled "A Practical Guide to Insuring Public Assets", to which Swiss Re and many other insurers have contributed.
As I got on the train to leave New York, it struck me that at this Climate Summit our efforts were no longer isolated. These coalitions feature alongside many others, from governments’ commitments to sector-based ones, now systematically captured on the UNFCC NAZCA portal for Climate Action. I'm hoping the joint actions shared and discussed at the UN Climate Summit will help us finally reach the tipping point. Not the tipping point where it's too late. But the one where we generate the urgent, broad based climate actions crucial to securing our sustainable future.