INSURANCE EXECUTIVES TO DISCUSS IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE AT INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE IN TOKYO, 2 DECEMBER

ENV/DEV/452
1 December 1997

INSURANCE EXECUTIVES TO DISCUSS IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE AT INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE IN TOKYO, 2 DECEMBER

1 December 1997


Press Release
ENV/DEV/452
UNEP/20


INSURANCE EXECUTIVES TO DISCUSS IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE AT INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE IN TOKYO, 2 DECEMBER

19971201 TOKYO, 28 November UNEP -- In association with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), over 200 top-level insurance executives and representatives of other financial institutions from more than 10 countries will meet in Tokyo on 2 December to share experiences and strategies for the implementation of environmental commitments in the insurance sector. Topping the meeting's agenda is the issue of climate change.

"There is no coincidence that this meeting is being held at the same time as international negotiators gather in Kyoto to discuss targets and timetables to respond to climate change," said Elizabeth Dowdeswell, UNEP's Executive Director. "The insurance industry has become a powerful and credible lobby for action on the issue. They are an important counterweight to those who are working to slow progress," she said.

The threat of major weather-related disasters, like those resulting from the El Niño phenomenon, are the kinds of events that insurers fear will become more frequent if society continues to emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at the current rate.

For the insurance industry, environmental risk is business risk. The sector accounts for annual revenues of over $2 trillion. Today, natural disasters represent 85 per cent of insured catastrophe losses globally, or $12.4 billion in 1995, and these losses are on the rise.

Aside from discussions relating to climate change, the meeting will explore such specific issues as environmental management systems and reporting, asset management, and environmental liability.

"Many on the environmental side continue to say that business remains an obstacle to progress," Ms. Dowdeswell said, commenting on the future of the green agenda. "Instead of confrontation, we need to build partnerships like the one UNEP has with the insurance sector, and find solutions together."

The Conference comes as many of the world's leading insurance companies are recognizing that their efforts to protect human life and property and prevent catastrophic events can play a vital role in safeguarding the environment for future generations.

- 2 - Press Release ENV/DEV/452 UNEP 20 1 December 1997

"A better understanding of environmental risks is of key importance to insurance companies if we are to respond to them in a prudent manner", concludes the meeting's Chairman, Yojiro Yamashita, Senior Managing Director of Sumitomo Marine and Fire Insurance.

UNEP's alliance with the insurance industry was launched two years ago 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. The Tokyo Conference is a milestone for promoting the initiative in Japan and in other parts of Asia.

This is the second 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. (United Kingdom); Gerling-Konzern Globale (Germany); N.P.I. (United Kingdom); Sumitomo Marine & Fire Insurance Co. Ltd. (Japan); Swiss Reinsurance Company (Switzerland); and Storebrand (Norway).

For further information, please contact Michael Williams, UNEP Media Officer in Japan (tel: 81-20- 229-0209; fax: 81-75-705-2002). In New York, contact Jim Sniffen, UNEP Information Officer (tel: 1- 212-963-8094/8210; fax: 1-212-963-7341; e-mail: sniffenj@un.org).

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For information media. Not an official record.