As Climate Conference Fails, CGNU Director Warns of Mounting Damages

November 26, 2000

Even as delegates at the UN sponsored environmental conference in the Hague failed to reach any agreement to address the effects of climate change, Dr. Andrew Dlugolecki, director of general insurance development at CGNU, warned that the actual rise in damages was making such negotiations almost irrelevant.

Last minute efforts, headed by Conference Chairman Jan Pronk, the Dutch Environment Minister, failed to produce a compromise between the EU and the US concerning greenhouse gas emissions, in the belief that they contribute to increased atmospheric warming that is causing global climate change and more severe weather effects.

As a signatory of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the US undertook to limit these emissions, chiefly carbon dioxide, but with the booming American economy, they have actually increased. The conference was an attempt to adopt standards to implement the agreed upon production levels.

The US has maintained that a system of tradeoffs in energy production, and the inclusion of the role of “carbon sinks” in calculating the effective amount of emissions would be sufficient to allow it to meet its reduction quotas.

Europeans contend that carbon sinks – the growing plants in forests and grasslands which absorb carbon dioxide – should be limited in the calculations, as they don’t in fact reduce the actual emissions. They view the US position as a sham to avoid reducing the release of harmful elements into the atmosphere.

However Dr. Dlugolecki indicated that even the relatively mild restrictions agreed to in Kyoto are now “almost irrelevant.” He predicts that climatic instability will inevitably worsen for at least the next 40 years, as will the increasingly violent weather events which accompany it.

“Property damage is rising very rapidly, at something like 10 percent a year,” Dlugolecki told the BBC. He cited conclusions of several thousand scientists contained in The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report due out next year. “We’ve still not yet really begun to see the effects of climate change in the West. What we are seeing so far is largely the result of more people living in areas which are becoming more dangerous. But once this thing begins to happen, it will accelerate extremely rapidly, as the IPCC report makes clear.”

The only real hope Dlugolecki sees would be a drastic reduction in carbon emissions, by as much as 60 percent, and a real attempt to find nonpolluting energy substitutes. Barring that, the only course left open is to try to mitigate the amounts of damages caused by weather events through such measures as toughened building codes and restrictions. He warned that with the precipitate rise in damage claims it might soon be impossible for the insurance industry, and even many governments, to continue to absorb the costs of the damages.

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