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Philip Ryan

26 November 2013
Philip Ryan

“No greater long-term challenge to the insurance industry than climate change”

Philip K. Ryan joined Swiss Re America Holding Corporation as a Director of the Board in May 2010, and was elected Chairman of the Board effective October 2012. In this capacity, he is involved with Swiss Re's focus on its strategic priorities in the Americas, including matters related to regulation and financial performance.

He spoke at Climate Week NYC 2013 on the impacts and risk of climate change.

“Five years ago, as you heard, The Climate Group approached Swiss Re with the idea of an innovation to create Climate Week NYC. I’d like to congratulate The Climate Group on their success and we’re proud to see that this event has developed into an important forum for climate advocacy.

"It is perhaps also fitting that we celebrate Climate Week’s 5th anniversary in the same year that we celebrate Swiss Re’s 150th year anniversary. Over those 150 years, Swiss Re has accumulated a great deal of experience helping our clients manage the impacts of severe weather. 

"In 2012, those impacts cost the global economy US$160 billion, and US$70 billion of that was covered by insurance. As experts on risk, everything we see points to the fact that climate change is something we simply cannot ignore and reducing emissions is essential.

"Climate adaptation and disaster planning is nowhere more urgent than our cities, where 50% of the world’s population now lives, and where the economic consequences of climate change are going to be disproportionately higher.

"Sandy has proven to be a galvanizing event here on the East Coast.  The Colorado floods have been a galvanizing event out West. And they highlight our climate vulnerability. 

"In a report Swiss Re launched just last week, New York is identified as the most vulnerable – or exposed – urban area to storm surges in this country, with approximately 1 million people being at risk. Around the country, there is approximately US$10 trillion of insurable assets along the coasts. The vast majority of those assets, and assets everywhere in this country, are designed to withstand climate events of the past, not climate events of the future.

"It is encouraging to see that cities like New York understand this. Swiss Re was proud to work with New York on their groundbreaking report released in June. Things are starting to change. But there’s still a long way to go.

"From a long-term perspective, I don’t think there’s anything more challenging to our industry than climate change. Our role as a leader in the insurance industry is to enhance the understanding of risk imposed by climate change, including the assessment and pricing of that risk. We provide products, solutions, and help to insurance companies, corporations and governments to mitigate and reduce the volatility associated with those loss events.

"Lastly, we want to be an advocate for addressing climate change and participate in the risk dialogue. There’s an enormous opportunity to help our clients to develop new, innovative ways to manage the financial impact when severe weather strikes.

"Climate change can only be addressed, we believe, in a joint-effort with the public and the private sector. I believe it’s incumbent upon business leaders to assess how climate change may challenge their companies and their clients. We should identify the risks, but also the commercial opportunities that exist that can be harnessed to drive forward an effective response to climate change.

"Driving the Clean Revolution forward and building a more resilient society is a smart choice. Time is running out. Action is required. 

"I started by recalling Swiss Re’s commitment to join the Climate Week NYC initiative and I’ll close by announcing another commitment that we are making to partner with The Climate Group and the United Nations Global Compact. Today, I would like to confirm that Swiss Re will become a founding partner in a new initiative just mentioned by Mark Kenber with the goal of recruiting 100 companies to commit to sourcing 100 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. You’ll hear more about this during the COP19 event in Warsaw. Thank you very much.”

Watch the speech recorded live at Climate Week NYC:

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