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Calls for ‘coherent’ policy on climate change

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Swiss Re’s local head Mark Senkevics has called for a “coherent government policy” on climate change, warning that Australia is uniquely exposed.

“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,” Mr Senkevics writes in a blog post.

“Our resilience as a nation depends on this.”

Insurers should play a role too, and “not simply be observers of the changing pattern of risk”, he says.

Mr Senkevics points to recent Swiss Re research which shows more than 60% of insured losses in Australia 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. He says a rise in extreme heat events will send heat-related deaths soaring.

An Australian State of the Environment report estimates that next year 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 30 degrees,” 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.”