Canadian Underwriter

United Nations calls for action after worst cat loss year for insurers

December 19, 2004   by Canadian Underwriter

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The unprecedented natural catastrophe losses suffered by insurers in 2004 have caught the attention of the United Nations. At a conference on climate change last week, the UN said more needs to be done to “avert a veritable biblical list of plagues arising from global warming”.
The 10th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Buenos Aires, Argentina saw UN secretary-general Kofi Annan note, “Worrying signals continue to reach us about the impacts and risks of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has already showed us that the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events may increase.”
In the first ten months of 2004, the conference learned, insurers paid out more than US$35 billion catastrophe claims as a result of severe weather events, while economic losses totaled about US$90 billion.
While the science on climate change has grown in the past decade, more needs to be done to address its causes, namely human actions which have led to global warming. Convention executive secretary Joke Waller-Hunter did point to positive movement, specifically the Kyoto Protocol, which comes into force in mid-February, and will see countries reducing certain greenhouse gas emissions during 2008-2012. “But can we look forward with hope? Despite our efforts, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere keep on rising, at an ever-increasing pace.”
Among the steps needed to be taken are the use of low-carbon energy sources, low greenhouse gas technologies and renewable energy sources, the conference heard. More work also needs to be done to make developing countries less vulnerable to catastrophes.

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