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A nation under threat: insurance leader calls for climate action

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The resilience of Australia is at stake as the effects of climate change take hold, Swiss Re’s local head Mark Senkevics has warned.

Writing in a blog post, Mr Senkevics calls for a “coherent government policy” and says the insurance industry cannot afford to just sit back and watch.

“Now the [federal election] is behind us we need to refocus on where we are heading as a nation regarding climate change, taking into consideration how we work together to mitigate and adapt to the existential nature of climate risk,” he says.

He points to recently released Swiss Re research, which shows more than 60% of insured losses last year resulted from “secondary perils” such as hail, flood, storm or bushfire.

Insurers are facing a “constant flow” of small and medium-sized catastrophic events, he says, with the Sydney hailstorm in December and February’s Townsville floods two recent examples, and a rise in extreme heat events will send heat-related deaths soaring.

An Australian State of the Environment report estimates that in 2020 there will be more than 2000 heat-related deaths in the nation’s capital cities, rising to 5000 a year by 2050.

“Last year was the third warmest year on record and January this year was the hottest month on record, with average temperatures exceeding 30C,” Mr Senkevics writes.

“The ramifications of such a trend are enormous; and the impact of extreme heat, droughts and floods on agriculture will amplify issues around migration, urbanisation, food security and water scarcity.”

Insurers “should not simply be observers of the changing pattern of risk”, he says.

Mr Senkevics praises the action of regulators and industry bodies such as the Insurance Council for “highlighting the importance of climate change and the need to respond”, but says the Government must do more.

“Now more than ever, we need a coherent government policy around how we mitigate and adapt to climate risk, taking account of the root cause of the problems we face.

“Our resilience as a nation depends on this.”

Click here to read the full blog.