Insurance industry takes action on climate change
Alice Chapple, 26th November 2009, Finance
The worst floods in Cumbria for decades have devastated people’s homes and businesses. As the clean-up operation begins, communities are counting the cost. Not just in terms of property but also because of the effort required to revitalise a local economy with such damaged infrastructure. Insurers are counting the cost, too.
Heavy rainfall of the kind we have seen over recent days in Cumbria has always happened and will always happen, at irregular intervals. This specific event may or may not be the result of climate change. But insurers need to know whether these events are becoming more frequent and/or more severe.Â Otherwise they can’t make the right decisions on what premiums they should charge, who and what they should cover, and what they should put in the small print of exclusions.
It is therefore not surprising that many insurance companies are supporting wide-ranging research into climate change. The members of ClimateWise, a global collaboration of leading insurers focused on reducing the risks of climate change, have committed to lead in risk analysis.Â Forum for the Future has just completed its review of the second year reports by the 37 insurance companies that make up ClimateWise, and found lots of evidence of this type of activity. The ClimateWise initiative does seem to have had a real impact on members’ responses to climate change, particularly for those at the earlier stages of developing their strategy. Recognising the risks of climate change, ClimateWise has also produced statements calling for governments to implement strong and immediate measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And members are measuring and reporting on their own emissions.
This is important progress. But insurers know that on current trajectories the risks of climate change will continue to increase, premiums will rise, and more and more risks will become uninsurable. They know that in the medium- to long-term this is a very poor recipe for growth in their industry. They know that preventing this will require changes in our carbon-intensive behaviour across the economy. So ClimateWise members understand the need to help drive these changes, through their interactions with government, with their customers and through their investments.
Events such as those we have seen in Cumbria over the last few days further underline the urgent need for action.
The ClimateWise report contains much more information about what ClimateWise members are doing, and Forum’s recommendations.