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Swiss Re calls for mitigation investment as catastrophe loss figures rise 

Swiss Re says global insured losses from natural catastrophes for the first half were $US50 billion ($77.35 billion), marking the second-highest total since 2011. 

Thunderstorms in the US dominated the losses, with the reinsurer estimating $US35 billion ($54.15 billion) in covered damages, accounting for about 68% of the total insured loss figure.  

The costliest single disaster for insured and economic losses was the Turkey earthquakes, with the cost to insurers placed at $US5.3 billion ($8.20 billion).  

Swiss Re remarks on the growing perils facing cities, noting multi-billion-dollar losses from Cyclone Gabrielle and the North Island Floods in New Zealand as examples of future risk events.  

“The above-average losses reaffirm a 5-7% annual growth trend in insured losses, driven by a warming climate but even more so, by rapidly growing economic values in urbanised settings, globally,” Swiss Re Head of Catastrophe Perils Martin Bertogg said.  

“The cyclone and flood events in New Zealand in the first quarter of 2023 are testimonies of the risk to today’s large urban centres, continuing patterns observed in 2021 in the Germany flooding, and in 2022 in Australia and South Africa.” 

Swiss Re Group Chief Economist Jerome Jean Haegeli says it is “high time” for investments in resilience and climate adaptation protections if governments want to see insurance options remain affordable.  

“The effects of climate change can already be seen in certain perils like heatwaves, droughts, floods and extreme precipitation,” Mr Haegeli said.  

“Besides the impact of climate change, land use planning in more exposed coastal and riverine areas, and urban sprawl into the wilderness, generate a hard-to-revert combination of high value exposure in higher risk environments. 

“Protective measures need to be taken for insurance products to remain economical for such properties at high risk.”  

The reinsurer valued insured losses due to man-made catastrophes at $US4 billion ($6.19 billion). Total economic losses were placed at $US125 billion ($193.38 billion), slightly lower than last year’s first half total but 46% above the decade average.