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Sustainability

Addressing climate change, reducing our environmental footprint, securing the future of work and inspiring confidence in a digital society.

Zurich goes to Washington to advocate for climate action
Oct 21, 2021

David Edsey, Climate Director, Technical Underwriting, for Zurich North America, makes the business case for reducing carbon emissions at a House committee hearing.

Private businesses are making great strides to address the climate crisis, but strong support from the federal government is necessary to avoid the disastrous consequences of a rapidly warming planet, David Edsey, Climate Director for Zurich North America, told a congressional committee Wednesday, October 20.

“The commitments from industry and commerce, though impressive and growing, will not be enough to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 in order to keep global warming in check,” he said. “Decisive governmental action is needed.” 

Edsey was one of four witnesses who provided testimony at the House Select Committee on Climate Crisis hearing, “Good for Business: Private Sector Perspectives on Climate Action.” Other witnesses were Gilbert Campbell, Founder and CEO, Volt Energy Utility; Corley Kenna, Head of Communications and Policy, Patagonia; and Mark W. Menezes, former Deputy Secretary of Energy, U.S. Department of Energy, and former Chief Counsel for Energy and Environment, U.S. House Energy & Commerce Committee.

The hearing took place as world leaders get set to meet in Glasgow for COP26 (the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties) and as the Biden administration seeks congressional support for a spending bill that includes a program to accelerate the transition to renewable energy sources and away from  coal- and gas-fired power plants in the U.S.

Edsey opened his testimony by explaining why Zurich and its customers are deeply concerned about the impacts of climate change.

“Zurich insures the commercial properties of thousands of U.S. companies against physical damage caused by flood, windstorm, hail, wildfire and other extreme weather events,” he said. “Our property policies also pay for our customer’s lost business income resulting from damage to their property, power outage, or damage to their supply chain due to extreme weather events. In short, Zurich, like all other property insurers, is dramatically exposed to extreme weather events now made more frequent and severe due to anthropogenic climate change.”

In response, Zurich has prioritized helping its policyholders and communities adapt to the effects of climate change and reducing CO2 emissions. For example, Zurich has committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 in its own operations, in its investment portfolios, and in its underwriting portfolios. Zurich is also sponsoring Instituto Terra, which is restoring nearly two thousand acres in Brazil's Atlantic Forest, by planting a million trees and restoring biodiversity. And Zurich recently announced a collaboration with the Resilient Cities Network to create a multi-year program to strengthen climate resilience and address social inequities in vulnerable communities, beginning initially with Houston and Boston.

Edsey outlined some of the policies and programs that Zurich supports to address climate change, including:

  • a meaningful, global price on carbon, which would align economic incentives to reduce emissions;
  • a clean electricity program, as the foundation of a net-zero economy is a clean grid to meet the growing demands of electrified vehicles, buildings and industries;
  • the extension of tax credits supporting the use of renewable electricity and the purchase of electric vehicles; and
  • public investments in electric vehicle charging infrastructure, green hydrogen, and carbon capture and storage.

“The response to this crisis cannot be overdone and will require the combined efforts of all citizens, communities, businesses and levels of government,” Edsey concluded. “It will also require an unprecedented level of international cooperation, especially to advance emerging economies onto carbon-free platforms, to protect the world's natural carbon sinks, and to share carbon-reporting and -pricing mechanisms.” 

The full hearing can be viewed online here: https://climatecrisis.house.gov/committee-activity/hearings/good-for-business-private-sector-perspectives-climate-action

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