February 22, 2008

Insurance Industry Response to Climate Change

In an October 2007 report commissioned by Ceres, author Even Mills, Ph.D., of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, identified several hundred innovations to address climate change that have been implemented by insurance companies and brokers world-wide. These include insurance products to cover alternative energy providers, underwriting to encourage less driving and use of fuel-efficient vehicles as well as suites of insurance products tailored to the special needs of "green building." Still, only a minority of insurers have taken visible action or offered innovative products and services to address climate change, according to the report.
Evan Mills, "From Risk to Opportunity: 2007 - Insurer Responses to Climate Change" (Ceres, 2007)

Beyond direct exposure to property loss and business interruption, both the global insurance industry and its business clients are exposed to third party liability claims generated by climate-change outcomes, according to an article for a 2007 Symposium on Climate Change Risk. According to the paper, Goldman Sachs has estimated such corporate liabilities could be comparable to those for asbestos exposures.
Ross, Christina, Mills, Evan and Hecht, Sean B., "Limiting Liability in the Greenhouse: Insurance Risk-Management Strategies in the Context of Global Climate Change". Stanford Environmental Law Journal, Vol. 26A, p. 251, 2007 Available at SSRN or at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (U.S.Dept. of Energy):

The Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR) has released its latest Action Plan. INCR is a growing organization of individuals, officials and funds that together control some $1.75 trillion in invested assets. Its members include several state treasurers and pension funds with a history of social activism, such as CalPERS. In its Action Plan, the signatories present their agenda for action, with this preface:
"As fiduciaries and long-term investors, we see significant short and long-term risks from climate change to the value and security of our investments and capital markets more broadly. And we recognize that the impacts of climate change will continue to be multi-dimensional – affecting corporations’ abilities to secure the full range of necessary resources such as energy and water. At the same time, we also see opportunities presented by the transition to a low-carbon future."
"Prudence, common sense, and fiduciary duty compel us to renew our efforts to examine and address the financial ramifications of climate change and to respond to climate challenges and opportunities. Accordingly, we hereby state our intentions to manage our investments; to engage companies, investors, and others; and to support policy action to the best of our abilities, in line with the following agenda:"
The Action Plan is accessible at INCR INCR and at Ceres.

Publicly traded businesses are coming under increasing pressure to comply with existing securities laws and regulations that require the disclosure of material exposures to environmental loss and liability. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has been criticized and pressured by Congressional leaders to enforce those laws, with little response from the present administration. See, e.g. “SEC Pressed to Require Climate-Risk Disclosures” By Steven Mufson,
Washington Post, September 18, 2007; D01, and “Investors praise U.S. Senate leaders for pushing SEC to require full corporate disclosure of climate change risks,” Ceres, December 7, 2007.


Posted by dougsimpson at February 22, 2008 02:26 PM