Canadian Underwriter

U.S. companies urge President Obama to move forward with climate action plan, combat severe weather’s effect on supply chains

October 30, 2013   by Canadian Underwriter

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Twenty major businesses in the United States – all of which rely on the stability of global supply chains for growth and profitability – took the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy as an opportunity to remind President Barack Obama and the White House of the urgent need to follow through on preparedness efforts.

Starbucks, Unilever and Mars, Inc. are among the corporate signatories of a letter sent to President Obama Tuesday demanding progress on the Climate Action Plan announced by Obama June 25, notes a statement issued by Ceres, a non-profit organization mobilizing business and investor leadership on climate change, water scarcity and other sustainability challenges, and Oxfam America, a global organization working to right the wrongs of poverty, hunger and injustice.

ClimateCritical components of the Climate Action Plan include federal investments in climate science, and support for disaster planning and risk management in multiple sectors. The companies reiterated the need for federal funding of programs and projects that benefit the most vulnerable communities and the businesses they rely on for employment, products and services.

Corporate signatories cited the economic impacts of severe weather events on company operations and called for ongoing and significant investments to be made in strengthening climate change resiliency both in the U.S. and the world’s most vulnerable countries. “Our businesses depend upon a resilient infrastructure, resilient communities and resilient value chains,” the companies note in the letter.

“The human and economic costs of severe weather are escalating and it is increasingly important that business and communities integrate climate risk into their operational and decision-making processes,” says Mark Way, head of sustainability Americas at Swiss Re America. “As experts on risk, everything we see points to the fact that climate change is something we simply cannot ignore.”

“In recent years, severe weather events, combined with rising temperatures, have devastated critical infrastructure, decreased crop yields and threatened water supplies. These trends are being felt globally,” the signatories report in the letter to Obama. “We call upon your administration to follow through on commitments for robust support of climate change resilience efforts.”

Bennett Freeman, senior vice president for sustainability research and policy at Calvert Investments, says “public investment in climate resilience is critical to the economic viability of companies we invest in that rely on consumers, labour, raw materials, and operations located in regions susceptible to extreme weather.”

Anna Walker, senior director of government affairs and public policy at Levi Strauss & Co., adds that extreme weather trends pose challenges to managing reliable supply chains and business planning. “We believe U.S. government leadership is essential for widespread action on climate resilience to strengthen communities and minimize economic disruption.”

The companies recognized efforts by the Obama Administration’s thus far to address climate change, and expressed support for public and private sector collaboration to continue advancing the implementation of the Climate Action Plan.

Superstorm Sandy was a massive post-tropical storm when it made landfall near Atlantic City, N.J., on Oct. 29, 2012.

The second-costliest hurricane in U.S. history, Sandy had an overall insurance impact of roughly US$30 billion to both private insurers and the U.S. government’s National Flood Insurance Program, notes a statement from Impact Forecasting, part of Aon Benfield. Storm surge and coastal flooding were the primary causes of damage, with the most significant impacts sustained in New York City and the state of New Jersey.

“Sandy showed that storm surge losses can be the dominating cause of loss, as opposed to wind, during a large hurricane event,” Siamak Daneshvaran, head of research and development at Impact Forecasting, says in the statement.

“Sandy was unlike any storm New York has seen in recent years,” Ellen Melchionni, president of the New York Insurance Association, says in a statement. “The key is that all those involved in disaster preparedness, response and recovery work together to ensure that New York is in a better place next time,” Melchionni says.