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Wildlife advocate tells local insurers to reduce climate risk

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Collin O’Mara, president and chief executive officer of the National Wildlife Federation (File photograph)

The head of the US National Wildlife Federation has encouraged insurance professionals to invest in ways to not just predict climate risk, but actually reduce it.

Speaking at the Bermuda inaugural Bermuda Climate Summit 2022, presented by The Bermuda Business Development Agency at the Rosewood Bermuda, Tucker’s Point, yesterday, Collin O’Mara said: “We are sending all the wrong market signals.”

Mr O’Mara said people are being encouraged to build in risky places that are known to flood or have hurricanes, with the promise of subsidisation.

“We have houses in the United States rebuilt seven times in the last seven hurricanes in the last 14 years,” said Mr O’Mara, president of one of the largest wildlife advocacy groups in the US with more than six million members.

He said the insurance industry must come up with policies that reduce climate risk and make the world safer for people.

“There have been efforts in tougher building codes and different incentives and premium changes and they are barely changing the market,” he said. “As many as 250 million people annually may be displaced by climate disasters by the year 2050. How do you build better policies so you are reducing the risk and making it safer for folks?”

He said it is also important for insurance and reinsurance companies to understand that reducing climate risk is not just an altruistic act, but something that can actually improve profits.

Collin O’Mara, president and chief executive officer of the National Wildlife Federation at the Bermuda Climate Summit (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

“As an active investor in the activities that produce risk, you in this room may have the greatest opportunity to accelerate resilience in this world, more than any other part of the economy,” he said. “I don’t think the government can do it alone.”

He praised the collaborative work done in Bermuda.

Mr O’Mara said he has always been curious about the leadership of Bermuda and its insurance and reinsurance industries because the island has been looking at climate risk for years.

"You have better data,“ he said. ”You have better modelling. You are ahead of this curve. It has always been amazing to me that the climate arguments for so many years were around this altruistic oh it is for your grandchildren, it is for the polar bears, or for the future, as opposed to saying there is something for us to do right now by taking action.“

The inaugural summit was held over the past two days at the Rosewood Bermuda, Tucker’s Point, in Hamilton Parish and was organised by the Bermuda Development Agency.

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Published May 25, 2022 at 7:59 am (Updated May 25, 2022 at 8:36 am)

Wildlife advocate tells local insurers to reduce climate risk

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