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Building Climate Resilient Cities

In October 2012, Superstorm Sandy made U.S. landfall along the densely populated Eastern Seaboard, devastating homes and businesses beyond recognition, and heavily damaging major urban infrastructure including roads, mass transit, bridges, along with water and electricity systems.

In the summer of 2013, two separate and record-breaking rainfall events in Canada – one in Alberta and a second in Toronto - triggered catastrophic flooding and set new record-breaking levels of damage and loss from natural catastrophes.

These events are only some of the latest in a series of extreme weather emergencies in North America, and around the world, characterized by their growing severity and frequency of impact.

All send a clear message that we need to better prepare our cities to withstand the impacts of severe weather and climate change, even while we strengthen our work to slow and reverse global warming.

Urban resiliency is also an imperative of the insurance industry as it reduces losses, promotes the maintenance of insurability, and presents opportunities for innovative risk transfer and insurance solutions to help manage climate risk. By building public-private partnerships city leadership and the insurance sector have the power to lead in building urban resiliency and protect the people and property within them.

Kick-Starting the Resilient City

Resilient Cities ChartEfforts to build climate resilience in cities have historically been led by public policy and planning approaches. However, the pace and scale of investment and behavior change required to ensure cities are prepared for future risks mean that the private sector has a crucial and catalytic role to play. Insurers, working with other partners, can use their strategic view of societal risk management to propel our thinking forward and focus us on what needs to be done to head off these risks.

It is from this perspective we designed and delivered a workshop series in the U.S. and Canada, bringing together insurance industry and city stakeholders in Boston, San Diego and Toronto. The aim of the series was to create a systematic understanding of where there could be mutually beneficial collaboration between these stakeholders to reduce risks and increase the performance and value of today’s climate-vulnerable local areas.

The materials developed from these workshops reflect the input and feedback of representatives from over 50 executives from the insurance industry, along with over 100 public sector leaders, real estate developers/property owners and infrastructure providers.

Learn More

In November 2013, three practical documents were published that form the output from this process.

  1. Building Climate Resilience in Cities: Priorities for Collaborative Action: This document distils the key priorities that emerged for collaborative action between key urban resiliency stakeholders. It is a concise summary designed to catalyze and expand cross-sector collaboration.
  2. A second, more detailed report Building Resilient Cities: From Risk Assessment to Redevelopment explains, in much greater detail, a new strategic planning framework, called a “Resilience Zone” which was introduced and explored during the workshops.
  3. A third deliverable is the Insurer-City Resiliency Toolkit used during the workshops to identify priorities for collaborative action. We are making these available so that city leaders, and other urban resiliency stakeholders may organize their own multi-stakeholder workshops.

Be in Touch

We welcome feedback on these materials and encourage you to be in touch with suggestions for improvement. Please contact: Cynthia McHale, Insurance Program,

Our Partners

A collaborative and creative process involving multiple organizations and individuals has informed the “Building Climate Resilience in Cities” workshop series. The following is a list of the major parties that provided their time, ideas and expertise in various aspects of the endeavor.

ClimateWise ( is a global insurance industry leadership group to drive action on climate change risk. The group leverages the insurance industry’s expertise to better understand, communicate and act on climate risks and members commit to act on the ClimateWise Principles, against which they are independently reviewed annually. ClimateWise helped to convene insurance industry leaders to inform and participate in the workshop series.

The University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership (CPSL) ( CPSL’s mission is to build strategic leadership capacity to tackle critical global challenges. CPSL deepens leaders’ understanding of the social, environmental and economic context in which they operate and help them respond in ways that benefit their organizations and society as a whole. CPSL provides the global Secretariat for ClimateWise and helped to conceive, convene and deliver the
workshop series with ClimateWise and its partners.

ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability ( is a global network of more than 1,000 local governments leading on sustainability and resilience. ICLEI offers a comprehensive approach to help cities and towns achieve their goals through technical assistance, tools, networks, and leadership recognition. Both ICLEI USA and ICLEI Canada helped to craft the program and convene city stakeholders participating in the workshop series.

The Insurance Advisory Panel provided guidance throughout the design, development and conduct of the insurer-city workshop series. The Insurance Advisory Panel was composed of senior executives representing Aviva Canada (, The Co-operators Group Ltd ( and Swiss Re ( who came together to provide insurance sector leadership to this endeavor.

The Next Practice Ltd. ( is a business innovation consultancy that works with clients to develop investment worthy opportunities that address the challenges of poverty and sustainability. The TNP team led the research for this project and developed the resilience zone strategic planning framework and local area risk management concepts that were explored and further elaborated by the collaborators and participants in the Boston, San Diego and Toronto workshops