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• Next week, Travelers, the giant insurance firm, will offer owners of hybrid cars in California a 10 percent discount. It already offers the discount in 41 other states and has cornered a large share of the market.
• This fall, Fireman's Fund will cut premiums for "green" buildings that save energy and emit fewer greenhouse gases. When it pays off claims, it will direct customers to environmentally friendly products to replace roofs, windows, and water heaters.
• In January, Marsh, the largest insurance broker in the US, will offer a program with Yale University to teach corporate board members about their fiduciary responsibility to manage exposure to climate change.
This week, Allianz, in cooperation with the World Wildlife Fund, issued a report on steps the insurance industry could take to reduce the physical impact of global warming or to help society adapt.
"The industry is in a unique position to incentivize," says Miranda Anderson, an author of the report and a vice president at David Gardiner & Associates. "This is the very beginning of thinking through this issue."
Some consumers are already noticing a negative effect of this shift. In the past year, some 600,000 homeowners living in a zone that an insurer considers a high storm risk in an era of climate change have seen their policies cancelled or not renewed. This includes coastal areas stretching from Texas to New York. Currently, coastal properties are valued at $7.2 trillion.
The attention on climate change is likely to receive a boost from state insurance regulators, who had planned to discuss its risks in September 2005 in New Orleans, at their annual meeting. Hurricane Katrina intervened, however, and the meeting was moved to Chicago.
"As a result, regulators spent an enormous amount of time on climate change and what changes to promulgate to make sure the companies are financially sound," says Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, a coalition of investors, environmental groups, and public-interest organizations in North America.