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Global insured cat losses below average at $31bn in H1: Swiss Re

11th August 2020 - Author: Matt Sheehan

Swiss Re Institute estimates that global insured catastrophe losses were $31 billion in the first half of 2020, up from $23 billion last year but well below the average H1 cost of $36 billion.

Swiss Re InstituteGlobal economic losses from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters came to $75 billion in H1 2020, according to Swiss Re.

This figure was similarly up from the $57 billion for the same period last year, but below the average of first-half economic losses for the previous 10 years, which was $112 billion.

Of these economic losses, around 40% were covered by insurance, with the main driver being secondary perils and in particular North America thunderstorms.

It is important to note that Swiss Re’s catastrophe loss estimates are for property damage only, and exclude COVID-19 related claims.

Of the $75 billion in total global economic losses in the first half of 2020, natural catastrophes accounted for $72 billion, up from $52 billion in the year-earlier period.

The remaining $3 billion of losses were caused by man-made disasters, down from $5 billion for the first half of 2019, partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with lockdowns across the world bringing economic activity in many countries to a near halt.

Global insured losses from natural catastrophes rose to $28 billion in the first half of 2020 from $19 billion the year before, while insured losses from man-made disasters decreased to $3 billion from $ 4 billion.

In North America, severe convective storms caused insured losses of over $21 billion in the first half, which was the highest since the first half of 2011, when losses from this peril alone were around $30 billion.

In June, Calgary in Canada suffered losses of $1 billion from hail damage, the costliest hailstorm event ever in Canada.

Other notable secondary perils in H1 included severe flooding in several provinces along the Yangtze River in China, destructive bushfires in Australia, and wildfires in Arctic Siberia.

“Once again, secondary perils caused most catastrophe losses in the first half of 2020. Climate change is expected to worsen and amplify the scale of secondary peril events and associated losses in the future”, said Martin Bertogg, Head of Cat Perils in Swiss Re.

Northern Europe was also hit by consecutive windstorms Ciara and Dennis in H1, causing $2 billion of combined insured losses, while Cyclone Amphan in the Bay of Bengal caused economic losses of $13 billion.

“Around 60% of natural catastrophe losses in the first half of 2020 were uninsured,” said Jerome Jean Haegeli, Swiss Re Group Chief Economist.

“As the severity of secondary perils will likely increase in the coming years, the importance of the insurance industry in closing natural catastrophe protection gaps is very clear,” he added. “Climate change is a systemic risk and unlike COVID-19 it doesn’t have an expiry date.”

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