Insurance and Climate Change column

Climate Change Act: Commit New York to Being Powered by 100% Renewables

By | April 12, 2018

Allianz says it’s further integrating ecological and social responsibility into its core business.

The insurance giant, which is already known for its sustainable bent, this week issued a 2017 Sustainability Report that documents Allianz Group’s achievements in corporate responsibility, with a focus on climate protection and social inclusion.

The Munich, Germany-based carrier in announcing the release of its report noted that the company leads the Dow Jones Sustainability Index as the best in its sector.

“A strong record in sustainability counts as a sign of strength for investors, attracts employees who want a socially engaged employer, and serves a growing market in sustainable financial products,” Allianz said in a statement.

The carrier referred to making investments of more than 5.6 billion Euros ($691 billion) in renewable energy, with a portfolio that includes 81 wind farms and seven solar farms in Europe and the U.S. The company’s investments in certified green buildings have risen to more than 11 billion Euros ($13.56 billion).

In 2017, Allianz made it standard practice to include ecological, social and governance criteria, on top of financial considerations, in all insurance premium investment decisions.

This so-called ESG investing is applied to all tradable assets, according to Allianz.

The carrier’s sustainability activities are aimed at helping to help build a low-carbon, socially stable society.

“Climate change and economic instability are the biggest challenges of the coming decades,” Oliver Bäte, CEO of Allianz SE, said in the report. “We have clearly defined our ambition: as a risk expert and an investor with a long-term orientation, we support the transition to a low-carbon economy, and our social projects strengthen disadvantaged young people all over the world.”

The group also reportedly invested more than 150 million Euro ($184.96 million) for training and development for its employees in 2017, and supported women in leadership positions – the company says this is reflected in a ratio of more than 37 percent female managers.

Within Allianz business operations, CO2 emissions per employee were down 17 percent from 2010, and building energy consumption fell 29 percent – the company already reports it derives 40 percent of its worldwide power consumed from renewable energy.

Bäte noted in the report that the company, in order to embrace the Paris Climate Agreement, divested 265 million Euros ($326.76 million) from coal and applied ESG criteria to its 690 billion Euros ($850.8 billion) portfolio.

NY Climate Change Proposal

A New York state lawmaker and an Olympian recently paired to write an opinion article supporting a law that would require the state to be fully powered by renewable energy in the next 30 or so years.

State Sen. Brad Hoylman represents Manhattan’s 27th District. Maddie Phaneuf, a native of Old Forge, is a member of the U.S. Olympic Biathlon Team and the Protect Our Winters Riders Alliance.

In their co-written opinion article in the Times Union published this week, they assert that New Yorkers must fight for “truly ambitious policy to combat climate change.”

Their article states their support for the Climate and Community Protection Act, which would commit New York to being powered by 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. The act would also mandate that at least 40 percent of state energy funds are invested into vulnerable communities, as well as creating labor protections for workers in the renewable energy industry.

The state Assembly has passed the act in 2016 and 2017, and this year there is bipartisan support for it in the Senate.

Being fully powered by renewables is a big jump. Currently only 3 percent of New York’s electricity is generated from renewable sources, according to the article.

The pair in their opinion article write: “Climate change affects New Yorkers across the state, whether by battering coastal areas like New York City with unprecedented storms or causing historically low levels of snow in the North Country, harming economies that depend on winter tourism. Superstorm Sandy cost the state at least $32.8 billion. Meanwhile, shorter winters with less snow each year threaten more than 300,000 jobs connected to outdoor recreation in New York and the $41.8 billion in consumer spending that accompanies it.”

The authors also say it’s smart financial move to support the act. They cite New York State Energy Research Development Authority estimates that climate damages may cost the state’s residents more than $10 billion annually, including from coastal flooding, agricultural disruption and higher electricity costs from heat-wave driven blackouts.

“Gov. Andrew Cuomo should bring the full force of his political courage to the table with us,” Hoylman and Phaneuf write. “Passing the (act) can cement our state’s legacy of climate leadership and, most importantly, can transform life for the better for all New Yorkers.”

Crops and Climate

Researchers looking at a heat stress tolerance gene in crops to help make them more resilient to climate change recently got a funding boost form the federal government.

Virginia State researchers Shuxin Ren and Guo-liang Jiang, working at the school’s Agricultural Research Station, have been awarded a three-year, $475,000 grant from the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, to study how to make crops more resilient under the stresses of climate change.

In announcing the grant the institution notes that the first 17 years of this century were the hottest on record since modern recordkeeping began, and that many crops are experiencing heat stress caused by rising global temperatures, which can result in lower crop yields, according to the researchers.

The researchers are looking at ways to help crops better tolerate these extreme temperatures.

The focus of the study is a potential heat stress tolerance gene derived from purslane, a plant species that tolerates heat stress and drought.

“A newly identified gene from purslane has the potential of improving crop production, especially under the stress of elevated temperatures,” Ren, an associate professor of plant biotechnology, said in a statement. “High-temperature stress will significantly affect agriculture production and warrants quick action by scientists to develop heat-tolerant crops that can thrive in circumstances of heat stress.”

The project will enable the researchers to test the novel gene PoBAG6, isolated from purslane, for its potential to improve the heat tolerance ability of crops. The gene will be transferred to corn and soybean and researchers will evaluate the ability to tolerate heat.

Laboratory research will also be conducted to evaluate molecular mechanisms used by the gene. The aim is to identify partner proteins that interact directly with the PoBAG6 protein with the hop these ipartner proteins can provide new strategies to improve crop heat tolerance.

“This research money will help us to continue to focus on wild species and identify more novel genes that can be used for crops’ abiotic stress tolerance,” Ren said. “We hope that, upon completion of this three-year project, the PoBAG6 gene can be used to engineer crop species, not only corn and soybeans but others, and enhance their ability to fight against heat stress during their growing seasons.


Given that changing climate conditions and the potential for increasing activity are expected to drive demand for more frequent U.S. government presence across a spectrum of roles, it is becoming increasingly important to determine how to operate in the Arctic, according to a new report published by the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center, a federally funded research and development center operated by the under contract the RAND Corp.

The report from the Santa Monica, Calif.-based think tank seeks to identify potential U.S. Coast Guard capability gaps with respect to operations in the Arctic in the present and in the 2030s.

The Arctic is also of strategic importance to the U.S. because of Alaska’s maritime border with northeastern Russia, the presence of the Bering Strait as a natural maritime chokepoint and the role the region does or could play with respect to deterrence, global power projection, and air and missile defense, according to the RAND report.

The study asserts that a key Arctic strategy challenge for the Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard is understanding how to enhance activities to prepare for operations before a crisis comes to pass, according to RAND.

Key findings in the report include:

  • Communications are critical to all missions, but in the Arctic, voice communications are patchy and unreliable, and transmission of data is extremely limited. Successful DHS execution of a range of mission types could require the ability to communicate via voice anywhere, at any time, and with text, images, video or other data.
  • Understanding and being able to assess situations is another important aspect of conducting a successful mission. However, many threats and hazards in the Arctic are poorly understood, and there is limited capacity or capability to regularly monitor those that are identified.
  • Even if a threat or hazard has been identified and communicated about in the Arctic, the potential for doing anything about it is limited by the scarcity of available assets and supporting infrastructure, combined with long distances, harsh operating conditions, and the small scale of the resources available for coordination.
  • The Coast Guard and DHS have had much difficulty in making progress toward addressing persistent Arctic challenges. Improving the USCG’s capability as an institution to identify and articulate specific needs and risks could help generate momentum for closing Arctic capability gaps.

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