Thursday, February 18, 2010

'Parts of South Africa may be uninsurable'

Melanie Gosling in IOL (South Africa): As the effects of climate change intensify, large areas of South Africa could become uninsurable, according to Santam's chief executive Ian Kirk. "Huge tracts of this country, and of the world, could become uninsurable or become unaffordable to insure. It depends if we're successful with reducing our carbon emissions.

"If we're not successful, our risks are going to increase significantly, and there comes a point when a risk is too high to cover," Kirk said. Kirk was speaking at a forum organised in the city this week by the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership on what the failure of the Copenhagen climate change negotiations means for business.

"Our organisation is paying claims now to farmers and property owners in the southern Cape for fire damage. Two-and-a-half years ago they were under water. It's affecting us and we have to rise up to this," Kirk said. In an interview later, Kirk said Santam was following the lead of insurance companies in Europe and the USA and re-examining the rating of insurance risks in certain areas where the affects of climate change were already being felt.

The organisation was working with UCT climate change specialists to plot areas of high risk, particularly regions vulnerable to sea level rise and flooding. Infrastructure built too close to the coast and in flood plains were particularly at risk. "We're looking at the coastline, at areas around the Vaal Dam and there are parts of the West Coast which are a problem. Langebaan is a problem and so are parts of the Southern Cape….

The view of Whale Point lookout from the seaside village of Haga Haga, shot by Tyearsley, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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