Bronwyn Claire leads ClimateWise, a pioneering group of 28 insurance industry firms who are responding to the risks and opportunities of climate change.
The voluntary initiative, driven by its members and facilitated by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), brings business, government and academia together to identify solutions to critical sustainability challenges.
Bronwyn began her career in environmental economics at the University of Western Australia, focusing her PhD on the incentives driving environmental sustainability. A spell at KPMG followed, where she worked with insurers and banks in Australia and Hong Kong to improve risk management and internal controls.
Since joining CISL in 2018, she has continued to drive forward the principles that were established in 2007.
What inspired you to work on climate change issues?
Growing up on a farm in Western Australia, I saw first-hand the impact of climate and economics on the environment and community through supply chains, finance and policy. I am passionate to develop a resilient global community through government, finance and the real economy working together. My PhD research and subsequent roles in business and government, and now their intersection at ClimateWise, have enabled me to push the sustainability agenda forward for society and our planet.
What are your work priorities right now?
ClimateWise focuses on three areas: disclosure, research and industry cooperation. The ClimateWise Principles are now in their 12th year and fully aligned with the Taskforce for Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), reflecting the ambition of our members to be accountable on their climate response.
Our members are currently leading research on two topics for underwriting: policy engagement and scenario analysis. In our industry collaboration, we are updating and looking to expand our Transition Risk Framework, which looks at the risks and opportunities posed by the transition to a low carbon economy for infrastructure assets.
We are also working with municipalities in the UK to put into practice our Physical Risk Framework, which demonstrated how industry expertise can be used by investors to better understand climate-related risk and the role of adaptation.
Tell me one step the insurance industry needs to take, to improve its response to climate change?
The insurance industry is seen as a giving signal of risk through premium pricing and insurance availability. However, these signals are often short term, rather than matching the longer term of the systemic risk from climate change.
The insurance industry should step forward to provide expectations of long-term risk exposure, insurance availability and pricing, and new products in the transition to a low carbon economy and increased exposure to physical climate risk.
Are you optimistic or pessimistic we can avoid the worst effects of climate change?
I'm quietly optimistic. The challenge is immense, larger than any previous social or environmental threat we have faced. However, I see great potential in our collective recognition of its significance that leads to action by government, industry, finance and the community.
Through the new CISL initiative the Future we Want, I've seen passion from around the world to take our experience from the Covid-19 pandemic and improve life on our planet for all.
What are you doing personally to reduce your climate impact?
For my personal impact, I look to how I sit in a circular economy. Where do the items I buy or use come from? Green energy, organic cotton and fairer sourced coffee? What's the impact once I'm finished with it? Will the packaging be recycled or the transport available for others? Does the pricing reflect only my willingness to pay or also all the externalities associated with its use? This can be a difficult choice for many people but one I encourage.