City Leaders, Insurers Seek to Protect Cities from Multi-Billion-Dollar Impact of Climate Change

Innovative approach to urban resiliency yields new resource for city leaders in the wake of Superstorm Sandy and floods in Alberta and Toronto

Guelph, ON (Nov. 22, 2013) – Well before the latest disaster caused by Typhoon Haiyan, in North America Superstorm Sandy and other multi-billion-dollar weather-related natural disasters, such as the floods in Alberta and Toronto, have public leaders and insurers taking a closer look at how to protect cities and build resiliency to the impacts of climate change. A new innovative resource identifies priorities for collaborative action between the insurance industry and city leaders, lays out strategies, and encourages public/private partnerships to protect people and property. By bringing the insurance sector’s risk management expertise to urban planning, cities could be more resilient and economically protected in the face of natural disasters and climate change.

The Building Climate Resilience in Cities resources were developed through a series of workshops in 2012 and 2013 in the U.S. and Canada that brought together more than 150 insurance industry executives, developers, city leaders and other stakeholders in Boston, San Diego and Toronto. Ceres and ClimateWise, which is supported by the University of Cambridge, convened insurance leaders, and ICLEI helped to convene city stakeholders. These partners are making these resources available so that city leaders across the country and others interested in urban resiliency can better address climate resilience – a multi-billion-dollar imperative – in their cities.

Historically, efforts to build climate resilience in cities have been led by public policy and planning efforts. However, faster and larger scale investment and behavior change is needed to ensure cities are prepared for future risks. The private sector has a crucial and catalytic role to play.

By building public-private partnerships, city leadership and the insurance sector have the power to lead in building urban resiliency and protect the people and property within them. The new resources include:

  • Building Climate Resilience in Cities: Priorities for Collaborative Action is a concise summary of the top concerns to catalyze and expand cross-sector collaboration.
  • Building Resilient Cities: From Risk Assessment to Redevelopment explains, in much greater detail, a new strategic planning framework, called a “Resilience Zone” which was introduced and explored during the multi-city workshops.
  • Insurer-City Resiliency Toolkit: based on material used during the multi-city workshops to identify priorities for collaborative action, this toolkit will assist city leaders and other urban resiliency stakeholders to organize their own multi-stakeholder workshops.

What stakeholders are saying about the Building Climate Resilience in Cities Resources:

“A well integrated cross-sectoral approach will be critical to effectively manage the growing risks facing our climate-vulnerable cities in the decades ahead,” said Kathy Bardswick, president and CEO of The Co-operators. “The challenge of harnessing the expertise and resources of various stakeholders, and catalyzing a collective response to better protect our societal and economic interests is no small undertaking. But through innovation and collaboration, we can succeed in building more resilient cities that serve as an engine for sustainable development for this and future generations.”

“While municipalities in Canada and the United States have been advancing action on urban climate resiliency, they cannot work effectively in isolation, collaboration and partnerships are key to the success of municipal efforts,” said Ewa Jackson, Acting Director of ICLEI Canada. “The joint work through Building Climate Resilient Cities, aimed at bringing together key stakeholders with municipal decision-makers, represents a fundamental component of our mandate of fostering urban leadership through shared learning, innovative action, and collaboration – the cornerstones to ensuring successful outcomes in furthering urban resiliency.”

“Leading insurance companies are key to building urban climate resiliency, insurers have a lot to offer, and much at stake, in working with cities to protect people and property from growing climate risks,” said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, a nonprofit organization mobilizing business leadership on climate change.

“Integrating insurance and risk transfer into planning to bolster urban climate resilience is essential but often overlooked,” noted Mark Way, Head Sustainability Americas Hub at Swiss Re. “This initiative demonstrates the importance of bringing the insurance industry into the discussion and the value that cross-sector collaboration, including with leadership groups such as ClimateWise, brings. Getting climate resilience right in cities should be a priority for all of us.”

“In 2011 the cost of urban disasters was estimated at over $380 billion,” said John Coomber, Chairman, ClimateWise. “Strengthened climate resilience will be the foundation for confidence, on-going investment and sustainable growth in our cities. To achieve this, insurers need to collaborate both with each other, through groups like ClimateWise, and with the people and authorities in vulnerable cities. The priorities for collaborative action published today provide a roadmap for where to start.”

“At Aviva, we recognize that insurers have a pivotal role to play in translating scientific findings and models into risks that can be more readily understood by individuals, businesses, communities and cities,” added Mazdak Moini, VP Underwriting Strategy, Risk & Reinsurance, Aviva Canada. “We also realize that such work can’t be done in isolation. As such, we value the collaborative platform that ClimateWise/CERES provides insurance industry leaders including coordinating a single, coherent voice that policymakers and planners can rely on to make decisions for the long term resilience of cities to the changing climate.”

“Finding practical ways for insurers, city authorities, infrastructure providers and communities to work together to make cities more resilient to climate impacts has not proven straightforward,” observed Polly Courtice, Director, University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership (CPSL). “These reports propose that ‘Resilience’ is itself a new category of urban performance, making a positive contribution to supporting such collaboration.”

“We in the San Diego region face a multitude of changing risks, such as more frequent droughts, increasingly intense wildfires and coastal flooding – in the past decade, wildfires alone have cost our economy $4.5 billion,” said said Emily Young, Ph.D., VP of Environmental Initiatives at The San Diego Foundation. “Cities and public agencies in our region have already begun working together to address these risks, and look forward to applying these resources from Ceres, ClimateWise and ICLEI to engage the private sector in ensuring the resilience of our environment and economy.”

About the Organizations

The Co-operators Group Limited is a Canadian-owned co-operative with more than $36 billion in assets under administration. Through its group of companies it offers home, auto, life, group, travel, commercial and farm insurance, as well as investment products. The Co-operators is well known for its community involvement and its commitment to sustainability. The Co-operators is listed among the 50 Best Employers in Canada and Corporate Knights’ Best 50 Corporate Citizens in Canada. For more information visit

Ceres is a US-based, non-profit organization that advocates for the adoption of sustainable business practices and solutions to build a healthy global economy. Ceres Insurance Program is working with leaders and investors in the insurance industry to set new standards and expectations that can enable insurers to plan for emerging climate risks while moving companies and individuals toward low-carbon activities. With ClimateWise, Ceres convened insurance industry leaders to inform and participate in the workshop series.

ClimateWise is a global insurance industry leadership group to drive action on climate change risk. The group leverages the insurance industry’s expertise to better understand, communicate and act on climate risks and members commit to act on the ClimateWise Principles, against which they are independently reviewed annually. With Ceres, ClimateWise convened insurance industry leaders to inform and participate in the workshop series.

The University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership (CPSL). CPSL’s mission is to build strategic leadership capacity to tackle critical global challenges. We deepen leaders’ understanding of the social, environmental and economic context in which they operate and help them respond in ways that benefit their organisations and society as a whole. CPSL provides the global Secretariat for ClimateWise and helped to conceive, convene and deliver the workshop series with ClimateWise and its partners.

ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability is a global network of more than 1,000 local governments leading on sustainability and resilience. ICLEI offers a comprehensive approach to help cities and towns achieve their goals through technical assistance, tools, networks, and leadership recognition. Both ICLEI USA and ICLEI Canada helped to craft the program and convene city stakeholders participating in the workshop series.

The Next Practice Ltd. is a business innovation consultancy that works with clients to develop investment worthy opportunities that address the challenges of poverty and sustainability. The TNP team led the research for this project and developed the resilience zone strategic planning framework and local area risk management concepts that were explored and further elaborated by the collaborators and participants in the Boston, San Diego and Toronto workshops.