Thursday, October 12, 2006

 

At last, the industry with the most to lose stirs . . .

from the October 13, 2006 edition - note highlighted paragraph below

New combatant against global warming: insurance industry

The world's second-largest industry, worried about losses related to
climate change, offers incentives to 'go green.'

By Ron Scherer | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
NEW YORK

Insurance companies, who like to stay out of the limelight, are becoming leading business protagonists in the assault on global warming. . . .

The insurance industry's clout is sizable. It's the second-largest industry in the world in terms of assets, and has a direct link to most homeowners and businesses. It insures coal-fired power plants as well as wind farms, so it can influence the power industry's cost structure.

With its financial muscle, the industry could help advance the use of new financial instruments designed to allow companies to trade greenhouse-gas emissions in the same way that commodities are bought and sold.

"The insurance industry has the ability to change behavior, policies and communicate with clients," says Nancy Skinner, US director of the Climate Group, which lobbies for business and government action to address global warming. . . .

"Climate change represents an ever- increasing risk, a risk far too great to ignore," says Clement Booth, a member of the Board of Management at Allianz AG, one of the world's largest insurance firms.

This week, Allianz, in cooperation with the World Wildlife Fund, issued a report on steps the insurance industry could take to reduce the physical impact of global warming or to help society adapt.

"The industry is in a unique position to incentivize," says Miranda Anderson, an author of the report and a vice president at David Gardiner & Associates. "This is the very beginning of thinking through this issue." . . .

The attention on climate change is likely to receive a boost from state insurance regulators, who had planned to discuss its risks in September 2005 in New Orleans, at their annual meeting. Hurricane Katrina intervened, however, and the meeting was moved to Chicago.

"As a result, regulators spent an enormous amount of time on climate change and what changes to promulgate to make sure the companies are financially sound," says Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, a coalition of investors, environmental groups, and public-interest organizations in
North America.

Ceres has made two reports on what the insurance industry can do to profitably manage climate change. In a report issued in August, Ceres details some steps currently under way, such as Swiss Re's investment in new solar technology, Munich Re's insurance renewable energy projects, and Lloyds of London's insurance on predicted energy savings.

In the US, one of the more unique and potentially far-reaching efforts will be rolled out this fall by Fireman's Fund. After a building is damaged, Fireman's will specify that it must be repaired with "greener" materials, including consumer electronics that must have Energy Star ratings from the Environmental Protection Agency. If a building is a total loss, it will be rebuilt as a "green" building. The insurer also plans to pay for an engineer to make sure ventilation systems and boilers are installed properly, which could also save energy.

"All the evidence suggests [that] if you decrease energy usage in a building, the owner's net operating income increases and you will improve the asset value," says Steven Bushnell, product director of Fireman's, owned by Allianz. . . .


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