California will require all major insurers to survey and report climate risks
Insurance commissioners in three states, including California, are now requiring that insurers report on how they’re preparing for climate change. Insurers will fill out a survey, which was adopted by The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) in 2009, but was never implemented by commissioners in all fifty states. Instead, it’s been a piecemeal approach. California administered the survey in 2009 and ’10, requiring all insurers that met a minimum size requirement and that were headquartered in the state to fill it out. Now California is expanding the initiative: all insurers that write premiums worth more than $300 million and do business in the state–not just those based here–will be required to fill out the survey. New York and Washington are doing the same.
The Climate Risk Survey covers general questions: does the company have a climate change policy with respect to risk management and investment management, has the company considered the impact of climate change on its investment portfolio, does the insurer have a plan to assess or mitigate its own emissions? An example of California’s survey from 2009 is available as a PDF from the NAIC website.
“It’s very broad,” said Andrew Logan, who directs the insurance program at Ceres, a non-profit that focuses on making businesses more sustainable. “It covers everything from how insurers are building climate science into their risk models to how they’re thinking about climate change as investors, to whether they’re building products that encourage climate-friendly behavior. So it cuts across all the types of ways climate change could impact the industry.”
Ceres worked with NAIC to develop the survey. Logan said climate change has the potential to impact all sectors of the industry. Property, life, and health insurers all face risks from it. NPR reported last month that homeowners insurance rates will go up as much as 10% this year, following the series of natural disasters in 2011. NPR didn’t link those disasters to climate change, but Logan pointed, out it’s years like that that make the insurance industry vulnerable.
“They’re really on the front lines as we see the the physical impacts of climate change getting worse,” he said. “The fact that regulators who are responsible for overseeing the solvency of the biggest industry in the world are worried about climate change is a powerful statement about the urgency of this problem.”