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Swiss Re signs climate change pact

Signatories of the global pact want to reduce emissions swissinfo.ch

The Swiss Reinsurance Company has joined 100 other top firms in agreeing to a plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

This content was published on February 22, 2007 - 11:23

The world's largest reinsurer says the pact reflects how companies have become more aware of climate change and its impact, and shows that they are committed to mitigating its effects.

The agreement was presented on Tuesday by the Global Roundtable on Climate Change, an initiative by the Earth Institute at New York's Columbia University.

"Such statements can achieve quite a bit since they help build up momentum concerning this topic," said Ivo Menzinger, Swiss Re's head of sustainability and climate change management.

"A huge number of companies, including very big ones, have voiced their concerns and want to have their say on how we should deal with climate change."

Swiss Re joins other representatives of the global insurance industry, such as Allianz SE and Munich Re, who have endorsed the agreement, citing climate change as a growing risk to business and society.

Other signatories include Air France, Alcoa, General Electric, Citigroup, DuPont, Volvo, American Electric Power and the World Petroleum Council.

Post-Kyoto

The pact claims to be a "bold post-Kyoto framework" for affecting change at the levels of policy and industry, particularly in regard to creating sustainable energy systems for achieving economic growth.

"Companies are fully aware that trends such as climate change and environmental risks are becoming more relevant to business, either through physical impact or regulation," Menzinger told swissinfo. "It makes good business sense to have an active dialogue about this issue and take measures."

The round-table, which includes executives from a range of industries including air transport, energy, technology, banking and insurance called on governments to set limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

But its agreement does not detail how those targets will be allocated among countries and how it would differentiate between highly industrialized and developing nations.

Slash emissions

The pact urged governments to place a price on carbon dioxide emissions released by power plants and factories to discourage the burning of fossil fuels.

It also outlines cost-effective technologies that exist today and others that could be developed and deployed to improve energy efficiency and help reduce CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases in major sectors of the global economy.

The Global Round-table on Climate Change estimates that technology to head off mounting CO2 concentrations would cost about 1 per cent of global gross domestic products.

"The comparative costs are very low" and pale in comparison to inaction, said David Downie, director of the group. Costs would fall further as technologies become more established, the group said.

Economist Jeffrey Sachs, who heads Columbia's Earth Institute, said politicians were lagging behind business leaders. But Menzinger disagrees, pointing to California and Britain as examples of where the authorities have made strong commitments to slashing emissions.

"There are leading politicians and leading companies that have understood that the issue of climate change is very important for their business environment, and that are also opportunities related to this," he added.

swissinfo, Simon Bradley

In brief

Reinsurance is the business of insuring the insurers. Swiss Re insures large or very volatile risks for other insurance companies. Its major competitor is Munich Re of Germany.

Apart from being the number one in the reinsurance business, Swiss Re is the world's largest life and health reinsurer.

Swiss Re has been in the business of reinsurance since it was founded in Zurich in 1863.

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Key facts

Latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projections:
Probable temperature rise between 1.8 and 4° Celsius in the 21st century.
Possible temperature rise: up to 6.4° Celsius.
Sea level most likely to rise by up to 43 centimetres.
In 2005 the damage caused by melting glaciers, flooding, rock falls and other climate-related problems cost Switzerland an estimated SFr2 billion.

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The Global Roundtable on Climate Change

The roundtable is an initiative of The Earth Institute at New York's Columbia University.

Its aims are to develop better consensus on climate change issues, to explore technological and policy options, to support sustainable energy projects and policies and to act as a business discussion forum developing better interaction between participants.

Since 2004, more than 150 people from the private sector, international and non-governmental organisations have been meeting twice a year to discuss scientific, technological, and economic issues critical to shaping public policies on climate change.

The joint statement is the result of discussions that have taken place over the past three years.

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