On January 31, 2017, several of North America’s foremost experts in disaster management convened in Ottawa, ON, Canada for the Public Policy Forum symposium “Disaster-proofing Canada: Financial Resilience for Natural Catastrophes.” With the threats of climate change quickly becoming present-day dangers, the symposium focused on the importance of developing climate resilience, while addressing potential political and financial barriers that inhibit its development. Speakers also emphasized the importance of collaboration, information sharing, and infrastructure resilience – both domestically and across borders.
Dr. Steven Chu, the former U.S. Secretary of Energy, discussed the urgency of preparing for sea-level rise and increased flooding which are all but inevitable, while Alice Hill, Research Fellow at The Hoover Institution, discussed political and financial roadblocks to the funding of resilience measures. Dr. Stephen Flynn, Director of the Global Resilience Institute at Northeastern University, proposed that regions which have invested in risk management enjoy competitive advantages that can attract businesses and bolster the regional economy. According to Dr. Flynn, large companies, particularly in knowledge-based sectors, have “flexibility to choose where to put their headquarters and expand their operations.” Keynote speaker and Chair of former President Barack Obama’s Global Development Council, Dr. Mohamed El-Erian, capped off the symposium with a speech about risk management in the context of the 2008 financial crisis. Dr. El-Erian highlighted that the same false assumptions and complacency that led to the 2008 financial crisis are also common in disaster management planning and recovery.
Another major concern raised at the symposium was the vulnerability of the insurance industry in the face of increasingly frequent, and ever more complex threats. According to Craig Alexander, Senior Vice-President and Chief Economist at The Conference Board of Canada, a Cascadia Earthquake could lead to the loss of over $125 billion in private and public capital, with $42 billion in insurance claims; potentially bankrupting the insurance industry and causing cascading effects throughout the entire financial system. Floods also pose a major risk, as flood protection insurance in Canada covers less than half of the $1.2 billion in annual losses caused by flooding. As a result of these findings, increasing public awareness about disaster risks and the need for more effective insurance emerged as key recommendations of the symposium.
A full Summary of the “Disaster-proofing Canada” symposium can be found here
Sources and Further Reading:
- MEDIA ADVISORY: The Public Policy Forum Hosts Symposium on Financial Resilience for Natural Catastrophes – Newswire
- MEDIA ADVISORY: The Public Policy Forum Hosts Symposium on Financial Resilience for Natural Catastrophes – Yahoo Finance
- Canada’s Earthquake Risk – Canada’s Public Policy Forum
- Fault Lines: Earthquakes, Insurance, and Systemic Financial Risk – Canada’s Public Policy Forum