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Jury still out on climate change, insurers say

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Some insurers remain sceptical about climate change, a new survey shows.

Only 65% of Australian insurers have adopted the formal position that climate change is a reality, according to a survey by actuary Evelyn Chow and actuarial analyst Jessica Egan.

The survey for Taylor Fry Consulting Actuaries questioned 26 insurance companies.

The participants represent 70% of all licensed general insurers in the country, and include 19 insurers, four reinsurers and three government insurers.

Eight small insurers surveyed are most sceptical about climate change, with one taking the position that climate change is not real. Three others have not adopted a formal position but two of these are taking action on climate change regardless of their opinion.

Of eight mid-sized companies surveyed, three do not have a formal stance and are taking no action, while two have not taken a formal position but are taking action.

All three government insurers surveyed and all seven large insurers questioned believe climate change is happening and all are taking action.

Some 73% of the insurers believe climate change is affecting weather events, compared with 19% that do not.

Of the impacts most often cited, insurers believe climate change is affecting windstorms, hail, storm surges, floods, cyclones and bushfires.

The biggest losses from climate change are predicted in property classes, followed by motor, agriculture and marine.

Professional indemnity and liability classes are also seen as likely to suffer losses, as companies pre-empt the potential for lawsuits, Ms Chow told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

Most companies (73%) have someone overseeing climate change issues, including some companies that remain sceptics.

However, only 50% of insurers are reacting to or preparing their business for climate change, the survey shows.

Ms Chow says insurers are beginning to see climate change as an “opportunity rather than a problem”, with more than 25% of those surveyed introducing related products and services.

Some have amended existing products to specify “green” product replacement or provide incentives for low-emission appliances, while others have developed products such as carbon sink insurance.