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Oil spills, floods and storms: Environmental risks once again shake the insurance industry

Paris/Nairobi, 14 January 2000 - Recent events - catastrophic floods in Venezuela, the damaging oil spill off the French Atlantic coast and the storms that ravaged large parts of Europe - will cause major economic impacts for an insurance industry already burdened with a 14 fold increase in insured losses in the last four decades. The economic losses from the past 24 climate or weather- related catastrophes alone have exceeded US$150 billion of which US$65 billion was insured, according to insurance industry data.

"These events are further evidence that - as the insurance industry has constantly highlighted - society urgently needs to better manage environmental risks," said Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme.

Mr. Toepfer was speaking at a meeting of members of the UNEP Insurance Industry Initiative, a voluntary initiative of the insurance industry and UNEP to help the industry integrate environmental considerations within their internal and external business operations. The UNEP Insurance Industry Initiative has expanded to 86 international companies operating in more than 50 countries.

The chair of the Initiative's Steering Committee, Mr. Walter Jakobi, said that the insurance industry can use its combined skills and expertise through the Initiative to help policy makers develop and implement policy frameworks to minimize environmental risks. He stressed that "The first and foremost action in this process is that governments ratify the Kyoto Protocol."

Mr. Toepfer called on insurance companies to join the Initiative and reinforced the need for the insurance industry to redouble its environmental efforts. "It is now time for aware and active insurers, acting as responsible global citizens, to move from simply assessing the environmental risks to implementing solutions to minimize or avoid those risks," he said.


Background on the Initiative

The UNEP Insurance Industry Initiative forms part of the UNEP Financial Services Initiatives facilitated by UNEP's Economics and Trade Unit. In 1998 the Unit was attached to the newly created Division of Technology, Industry and Economics which is headquartered in Paris, France. Ms Jacqueline Aloisi de Larderel is Director of the Division.
The Initiative is led by a Steering Committee with representatives from CGU plc.(United Kingdom), Gerling-Group (Germany), NPI (United Kingdom), Storebrand (Norway), Sumitomo Marine & Fire Insurance Co.(Japan), and Swiss Reinsurance Company (Switzerland). Recent work undertaken includes policy on climate change and CO2 indicator accounting methods.

For further information please contact:
UNEP - Division of Technology, Industry and Economics,
39-43 Quai André Citroën, 75739 Paris cedex 15, France;
Tel. +33 1 44 37 14 50; Fax +33 1 44 37 14 74;
URL:; or UNEP DTIE - Economics and Trade Unit, 15 chemin des Anémones, CH-1219 Châtelaine, Geneva 10, Switzerland;
Tel +41 22 917 82 98; Fax +41 22 917 80 76;

In Nairobi, please contact:
Tore J. Brevik,
Spokesman/Director of Information,
Communications and Public Information,
UNEP, P.O. Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya.
Tel.: (254-2) 623292; Fax 623692;

UNEP News Release NR2000/2

Friday 14 Jan 2000
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