Climate adaptation key to future-proofing Canadians – and the insurance industry

Climate adaptation key to future-proofing Canadians – and the insurance industry

Climate adaptation key to future-proofing Canadians – and the insurance industry | Insurance Business Canada

Industry insights

Climate adaptation key to future-proofing Canadians – and the insurance industry

Helping your clients adapt to climate change is easier than you think

Industry insights

By
Desmond Devoy

This article was produced in partnership with Intact Insurance and the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo.

Desmond Devoy, of Insurance Business Canada, sat down with Dr. Blair Feltmate, head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo, and Debbie Coull-Cicchini, executive vice president, Intact Insurance, West, Ontario and Atlantic Canada, to discuss what adaptations insurance companies can suggest to their clients to better adapt their homes to the new realities of climate change.

Insurance companies and brokers are on the front lines of bearing the costs of severe weather caused by climate change. As a result, they are critical to building the long-term climate resiliency of the communities in which they work.

Building resilience should go hand-in-hand with Canada’s efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions to slow climate change, explained Dr. Blair Feltmate, head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo.

“We must continue to limit the production of greenhouse gases,” he said. “But we also have to recognize that the most that can be done is to slow, but not reverse, climate change. Adapting to extreme weather, rapidly, is non-negotiable.

“Every day we don’t adapt is a day we don’t have.”

Investing in sustainable solutions

Adaptation means investing in and implementing “long-term, sustainable solutions to risks caused by climate change,” said Debbie Coull-Cicchini, executive vice president, Intact Insurance, West, Ontario and Atlantic Canada.

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It was with a view to creating such solutions that Intact established the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation in 2015. The Intact Centre is dedicated to helping Canadians reduce the impacts of flooding and wildfire, and to adapt to the growing threat of extreme heat.

“As a company, we are committed to helping people, businesses, and society prosper in good times and be resilient in bad times,” Coull-Cicchini continued. “That means playing an active role on the climate change front, from supporting initiatives such as the Intact Centre through to equipping brokers with the practical tools and resources they need to help their customers adapt to the impacts of extreme weather.”

The good news, according to Feltmate, is that a lot of work has been done in Canada over the past decade to limit the cost “of our costliest peril” – flooding – at the level of the home, in new community design and retrofitting existing communities, and for those living along coastlines.

“The adaptation challenge for Canada is to mobilize known solutions to limit extreme weather risk – particularly flooding – and to do so now,” he said.

Building resilience and bending the curve

During the pandemic, politicians and health leaders talked about flattening the curve. As Feltmate sees it, “bending down the curve on the impacts and costs of extreme weather” is exactly what needs to happen on the climate file for Canada.

Brokers can be powerful the agents of change here.

“I see brokers as frontline fiduciaries,” Feltmate told Insurance Business. “There is a lack of urgency across Canada to act on adaptation, and this is an opportunity insurance professionals can step into.” In their role as trusted business advisors, he added, “It’s mission critical that brokers understand climate change, and that they offer guidance to their customers to future-proof their homes.”

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A simple way for brokers to help bend down that curve is to share, with their customers, resources such as the Intact Centre’s Three Steps to Cost-Effective Home Flood Protection infographic. Typical of the Centre’s resources in its pragmatic, empowering approach, this infographic presents easy to understand actions that homeowners can take today to limit their risk of basement flooding.

“Homeowners will protect their homes from basement flood when they know what to do,” said Feltmate.

To help get that knowledge to Canadians, the Intact Centre offers a variety of resources brokers can share with their customers to help them bend the climate curve, future-proof homes and communities, and build resilience. Additionally, in association with the Insurance Brokers Association of Canada, the Centre offers brokers free accredited courses on climate change and flood risk mitigation that can position brokers as informed agents of change to help their customers.

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