Tag Archives: climate change

Sinking Cities

As sea levels rise, ground levels in coastal mega cities are also falling. This presents potentially disastrous consequences for insurers. Sinking cities are being submerged at a phenomenal rate

Large property insurers in the world’s coastal cities are concerned. They have taken into account the effects of climate change into their calamity models.

Underwriters fear the combination of sea water deluge and flood damage. New Orleans suffered an ensuing cascading collapse of critical infrastructure following Hurricane Katrina. The city is constructed on multiple layers of soft soil which compresses when built upon.

The causes of sinking cities varies. Ground water extraction for drinking water and industrial processes is one of the problems. In Los Angeles, oil and gas extraction is to blame.

Tokyo has been one of the most severely affected sinking cities. In the middle of the last century it grew rapidly. It sunk over 4 metres. In the 1970s radical corrective policies were instituted. Extraction of ground water was reduced.

The fastest subsiding city is Jakarta, Indonesia. It is sinking 5 to 10 centimetres a year. Key commercial districts of the city are threatened. These districts are where major Asian, American and European companies are based.

A water management specialist from Dutch research Deltares confirmed that the project known as the Giant Sea Wall (GSW), is one of the solutions to Jakarta’s problems. This project would protect four to five million people who could see their current homes sinking between 4 to 9 metres below sea level.

The city of Venice, Italy, built on a salt marsh, as charming as it looks, is sinking. Venice has always survived on borrowed time. A major threat are the extreme high tides known as “acqua alta”. Acqua alta is when the water level is over 90mm (3.54 inches) above normal.The most common occurrence of the acqua alta is in and around Piazza San Marco. Abnormal high tides are becoming more common place. Venice now experiences more than 60 days a year of extreme high tides.

Heavy and often reckless boat traffic speeding through the canals is another one of Venice’s problems. The wake caused by these motor boats and large cruise ships create small but powerful waves that lap the stones lining the canals. This is eroding away the mortar holding the city in place.

A popular as well as the most controversial solution to the sinking of Venice is called the MOSE Project (Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico). The plan is to create adjustable barriers at the Venice Lagoon entrances. These barriers are designed to rest on the sea floor until Venice is threatened by an acqua alta event. The barriers, when needed, spring into action by rising to form a dam across the three entrances to the Venice Lagoon. High water is thus kept away from the city.

The project, still incomplete, was caught in a scandal of corruption and bribery. Thirty five people were arrested and one hundred politicians investigated.

Green Products Insurance

Many insurers look for innovative ways to set them apart from their competitors in order to gain more market share. They establish and promote cutting-edge insurance products relevant to possible climate change which will be of benefit to their clients and the environment during this current universal green movement.

Sustainable/Green Products Sustainable products are those products that provide environmental, social and economic benefits while protecting public health and the environment over their whole life cycle, from the derivation of raw materials used to produce the product until their final disposal. Similarly, sustainable and green insurance products are those that cover the design, production and use of these sustainable products, or the accountability associated with their production and use. They also indemnify against the environmental consequence of potential climate change decisions (or lack thereof). Policies should be put in place where certain aspects promote environmental responsibility. The following green insurance products are presently available in the market: –

Personal Lines Green Property Rebuilding In general, after a covered loss, this type of coverage pays for the use of: Environmentally friendly or more energy-efficient materials when making repairs More energy efficient equipment or appliances For these policyholders who are already green, discounts are sometimes offered on their insurance premiums.

Property Renewable Energy Reimbursement This type of coverage protects a homeowner who uses an alternative-energy system in the case of a power outage. It may provide restitution for: Loss of income generated from selling surplus energy to the local energy company Extra costs to purchase replacement energy Utility or governmental fees for inspections, re-connections or permits when the homeowner’s alternative energy system is brought back online.

Property Loss Mitigation Device Discount Premium credits are offered to homeowners who install mitigation devices or choose storm-resistant construction techniques in catastrophe-prone areas. An example is window shutters to protect homes during severe storms.

Pay-As-You-Drive/Low Mileage Discount Pay-as-you-drive automobile insurance products inherently give incentives to drive less which leads to less pollution that may be contributing to global warming. These programs provide a customer with personalised automobile insurance rates (and hence savings) based on how well and how much they drive. A commercial auto policy premium is based on the amount of vehicle use. A business pays a premium based on a variable totally in the control of the business – the amount of miles driven by the company fleet. The discount comes from lower premiums when premium dollars are tied to travel efficiency.

Commercial Lines Upgrade to Green Commercial Fleets This type of product offers an option to upgrade the company’s fleet to hybrid vehicles for new vehicle replacement as part of an endorsement to the policy. One insurer, Infinity Insurance, took its own advice in creating a green fleet and reported to greenfleet.com. “Since 2006, fleet mpg has increased from 16 to more than 23 (Greenhouse Gas is) reduced from 5, 223 metric tons to 2, 223 due to lower fuel use and better fuel mileage. Fuel consumption has dropped by 115, 033 gallons, saving $225, 000”.

Insurance for Renewable Energy Projects These products provide coverage for companies in the renewable industry (e. g. solar, wind, hydraulic) to help them in managing risk, defending against lawsuits and protecting assets. These insurance products and services are designed to cover all stages of a project from design to distribution.

Insurance for Renewable Energy Property, Equipment and Loss of Use In order to keep with the rapid technological change of the renewable energy field, this type of policy provides replacement cost coverage for equipment with more efficient equivalents. Equipment currently in operation, under construction or newly purchased can be added to the policy. Green roofs are examples of what would be covered.

Insurance for Green Building As part of this coverage, insurers offer help to customers to build sustainably by evaluating designs and specifications for new structures and suggesting ways to ensure high-quality construction and exceptional loss prevention. Similar to the Personal Lines green property policy, those products also cover green materials and construction following a covered loss. Green Building techniques reduce waste, energy and water usage while preserving the environment. Insurance companies recognise the benefits of building green and now encourage the practice through green upgrade options and policy discounts.

Energy Savings Insurance Energy savings insurance policies can provide a backstop for energy savings guarantees given by energy service companies. An insurer pays any shortfall in energy savings below a pre-agreed baseline over the term of the policy, typically in the 5-10 year range.

Insurance of Carbon Capture and Storage/Emission Reduction Projects Insurance products and services are offered to organisations involved in the capture and storage of large volumes of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. These emission reduction projects typically occur at large point-sources of these gases, such as power plants before they can have a harmful effect on the environment.

Green Building Coverage Against Adverse Publicity This reputation coverage provides protection when a green building experiences adverse publicity. Funds are made available to employ crisis management specialists to manage adverse publicity; guide and counsel key company personnel; and provide other services to assist in restoring a company’s reputation.

Perishable Food Reduction Products These products encourage the use of devices that can be used to reduce the amount of produce lost and improve the overall quality of produce during the distribution process from the grower to the retailer. Technology devices continuously monitor the temperature and conditions of produce as it travels, estimating the remaining shelf life. This information is used to route products to maximise quality, saleability and reduce perishable waste.

Global Weather Insurance This product is used to bridge the gaps left by traditional insurance coverage within general property damage policies. Insureds are covered against unpredictable weather conditions and climate change. This may be beneficial for event promoters who want to hedge against a deferred weather variable such as rain/wind exceeding a defined threshold during the hours of coverage.

Political Risk Insurance for Carbon Trading Interested parties such as project sponsors, investors and lenders are given financial protection from risks arising from governmental interference, embargo, license cancellation, war and political violence which could interrupt the production, certification and delivery of carbon credits.

Speciality Lines Given the media attention to global warming and the potential for new lawsuits or governmental actions against entities that may be potentially contributing to climate change, additional speciality insurance products such as the following may be needed in the normal course of business:

Insurance for Pollution/Environmental Liability This coverage has implications for a broad range of risks and industries. Examples include commercial general liability pollution legal liability, and environmental responsibilities stemming from legislation and court rulings. Losses can arise from different hazards or activities and can have impacts on large corporations to small subcontractors in construction.

Directors and Officers Insurance It has been noted that there is increasing litigation occurring against companies that are believed to be contributing to climate change. Even a company’s inaction to disclose, assess or implement adaptation strategies could leave the door open to future litigation. Some insurers now offer directors and officers policies with optional global warming litigation protection. Other speciality lines encouraging more green behaviour include:

Architects and Engineering Professional Liability Insurance Discount for Building Commissioning Some insurers believe that there is a correlation between sustainable practices such as energy-efficiency and a low-risk profile. Building commissioning is the process of verifying that all of the subsystems (electrical, plumbing, HVAC,…) are working effectively, efficiently and as designed. Not only is the good for the environment, it also reduces the likelihood of professional liability claims. As such, architects and engineering firms implementing building commissioning as part of the construction process are given insurance premium credits. Professional Liability Insurance for Raters and Home Energy Survey Professionals Suitable insurance coverage is often lacking for many specialist professionals who provide energy-efficiency services. Certain qualified raters and home energy survey professionals are offered professional liability, general liability, and property coverage in order to protect themselves from accidents and potential lawsuits that may occur as a result of business operation.