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21 December 2009

After Copenhagen: What we need now is leadership

Nikolaus von Bomhard, CEO of Munich Re, on the outcome of the World climate summit in Copenhagen.

"The outcome of Copenhagen has left me somewhat stunned. The 2°C goal agreed with China and India at the G8 summit in summer of this year was merely recognised in Copenhagen, with no pledges made. The major industrial countries, along with China and India, have thus retreated behind the lines already established.
At Munich Re, we look closely at a multitude of risks and how to handle them best. Climate change is such a risk, and the need for action is obvious. I therefore find it baffling that so little was achieved during the negotiations in Copenhagen.

Climate change is a fact, and it is almost entirely made by man. It is jointly responsible for the rise in severe weather-related natural disasters, since the weather machine is "running in top gear". The figures speak for themselves: according to data gathered by Munich Re, weather-related natural catastrophes have produced US$ 1,600bn in total losses since 1980, and climate change is definitely a significant contributing factor. We assume that the annual loss amount attributable to climate change is already in the low double-digit billion euro range. And the figure is bound to rise dramatically in future.

What we need now is leadership. It is up to the USA, Europe including Germany, and China to cut the Gordian knot. Progress is likely to be made more easily on a small scale rather than at a climate summit with 193 negotiating partners and thousands of participants. In the light of the Copenhagen experience, I would therefore advocate a rapid resumption of talks with a small party of participants to get the negotiations moving again.

We need a strict climate agreement, and we need it fast. Climate change is a global problem and a challenge for humankind. If the players do nothing but pursue their national interests, we are headed for a climate catastrophe.

Industry is certain to move ahead now and actively develop solutions to curb climate change and prevent its consequences. After all, such solutions make economic sense. One example is the Dii, the huge desert-power project. We at Munich Re will make every effort together with our partners to rapidly turn this vision into reality. In the long run, however, the economy will need a global agreement to prevent a distortion in competitive conditions and relocation of high-carbon production processes and jobs into countries without any regulation mechanisms."


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