A group of 20 pension funds and other investors today called on 30 of the largest publicly held insurance companies to disclose their financial exposure to climate change risk and steps they are taking to reduce the financial impact to their businesses, as well as their investment portfolios used to pay claims.
The $135 billion California State Teachers Retirement System, Sacramento; $91.5 billion New York City Retirement Systems; $60.7 billion North Carolina Retirement System, Raleigh; and the $21 billion State of Connecticut Retirement Plans & Trust Funds, Hartford, led the group in sending a letter to the companies, urging them to report to shareholders on the issue.
The group is analyzing the issue with Ceres, which is a coalition of investment funds, environmental organizations and other public interest groups seeking to advance environmental stewardship by businesses.
At a teleconference, pension fund executives said insurance companies could use their influence as risk-assessment experts to propel change in business through premium increases for higher climate risk, and also lead in seeking new markets and investment opportunities for environmentally cleaner industries.
Kenneth Sylvester, assistant comptroller-pension policy, New York City comptroller's office, which oversees the city pension funds, said that Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. recently surveyed 13 major insurance companies and found that they "routinely disregard global warming as an issue posing sufficient financial risks to warrant being included in the underwriting process."
"The responses we received from the survey show companies haven't taken this issue seriously," Mr. Sylvester said.