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Insurance executives discuss how to deal with consequences of climate change

Cologne/Nairobi, 9 June 1998 - The insurance industry has suffered from a series of "billion dollar" storms since 1987. This has led to a strong increase in claims, reduced availability of insurance coverage and higher premiums. These are some of the reasons why over 100 insurance executives and representatives of other financial institutions from more than 15 countries will meet in Cologne, Germany, from 9-10 June 1998, to discuss strategies to deal with the problem, and in particular how to improve environmental reporting standards.

The meeting, held in association with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is hosted by Gerling Global Re, one of the world's leading reinsurance companies.

According to Dr. Walter Jakobi, Managing Director of Gerling Global Re, in London, "A better understanding of environmental risks is of key importance to insurance companies. "But", he concluded, "we can only tackle this issue if better and more specific information is made available to us. That's why environmental reporting is a crucial issue for our industry".

Also high on the agenda in Cologne is follow-up to last year's United Nations climate change meeting in Kyoto, Japan. The insurance sector is watching closely developments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and intends to play an active role at the next round of negotiations in Buenos Aires, Argentina, later this year.

"The insurance industry has become a powerful and credible lobby to push the environmental agenda forward," said Mr. Klaus Toepfer, UNEP's Executive Director. "Governments need to recognize that insurance companies have much to offer when it comes to providing technical expertise and financial resources in support of their sustainable development policies," he said.

"There are many voices on the environmental side that continue to say that business remains an obstacle to progress", added Toepfer. "Instead of confrontation, we need to build partnerships, like the one UNEP has with the Insurance Sector, and find solutions together.

At the meeting, a "corporate Global Warming Indicator" will be launched, as a tool for all companies across all sectors on how to measure their contribution to global warming. This indicator will allow investment mangers to identify impacts of the Kyoto Protocol on the financial performance of companies.

UNEP's alliance with the Insurance Industry was launched in 1995 when the first insurance companies signed on to the "UNEP Statement of Environmental Commitment by the Insurance Industry". Today, more than 70 insurance companies from 25 countries have signed the statement and have committed themselves to incorporating environmental considerations into their operations. During this conference two more will sign up to the UNEP Statement: Achmea Group (Netherlands), and Victoria Versicherungen (Germany).

This is the third such meeting to be sponsored by UNEP and the Insurance Industry Initiative for the Environment. The Initiative is guided by the UNEP Insurance Steering Committee which includes: General Accident plc. (UK), Gerling-Konzern Globale (Germany), N.P.I. (UK), Sumitomo Marine & Fire Insurance Co. Ltd. (Japan), Swiss Reinsurance Company (Switzerland), and Storebrand (Norway).

UNEP News Release 1998/58

Note to journalists:
Journalists are invited to attend the plenary session of the Conference on Tuesday, 9 June 1998 from 9:00-10:30. A press conference with Mr. Toepfer and Ms. Merkel will be held at Gerling Head Office at 10:30 immediately after the plenary session.

If you would like to receive a one page summary about the outcome of the Conference, please contact one of the persons below and it will be send to you by fax.

For more information contact:

Mr. Bernd Schanzenbacher,
UNEP Insurance Initiative,
tel: +41-22-979-9302, mobile phone +49 172 6846910;
fax: +41-22-7969240,

In Nairobi:
Mr. Tore J. Brevik
Information and Public Affairs
Tel: (254-2) 62 3292
Fax: (254-2) 62 3692

Thursday 04 Jun 1998
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