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Insurance industry paying increasing attention to climate change

December 19, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

Insurance industry paying increasing attention to climate change.

Dec. 13, 2012 — The insurance industry, the world’s largest business with $4.6 trillion in revenues, is making larger efforts to manage climate change-related risks, according to a new study published December 13 in the journal Science.

“Weather- and climate-related insurance losses today average $50 billion a year. These losses have more than doubled each decade since the 1980s, adjusted for inflation,” says the study’s author Evan Mills, a scientist in Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab)’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division. “Insurers have become quite adept at quantifying and managing the risks of climate change, and using their market presence to drive broader societal efforts at mitigation and adaptation.”

Hurricane Sandy is only the most recent U.S. example of the kinds of increasing liabilities posed by severe weather events in a changing climate.

Managing a portfolio of $25 trillion in assets, similar in size to mutual funds or pensions globally, the insurance industry has become a significant voice in world policy forums addressing the issue, as well as a market force, investing at least $23 billion in emissions-reduction technologies, securities, and financing, plus $5 billion in funds with environmental screens, seeing risks to investments in polluting industries and opportunities in being part of the clean-tech revolution.

Risk and opportunity

“Where there are risks, there are opportunities,” writes Mills. Responding to shareholder, regulatory, and market forces, three global initiatives [UN Environment Program Finance Initiative (1995), ClimateWise (2007), and the Kyoto Statement (2009)] have compelled 129 insurance firms from 29 countries to engage in activities including: supporting climate research; developing climate-responsive products and services; raising awareness; reducing in-house greenhouse gas emissions; quantifying and disclosing climate risks; incorporating climate change into investment decisions; and influencing public policy. The ultimate goal of these industry activities is reducing climate-related losses among their customers as well as reducing their own exposure to risk, which is rising in step with the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather-related events.

These insurers, together with reinsurance companies (the insurers of insurance companies), industry associations, brokers, catastrophe-loss modelers, and partners in the research community, have been using sophisticated analytical tools to quantify and diversify their exposure to climate change risk, more accurately price and communicate risk, and get adaptation and loss-prevention efforts up and running.

 

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