London insurers seek better grip on pollution

Voluntary guidelines for underwriting environmental risks welcomed by Meacher

A working group representing interests across the British insurance industry has recommended guidelines to improve underwriting of environmental risks. Launched today, the guidelines propose a series of questions that insurers should ask potential purchasers in order to improve the factual basis for calculating premiums for covering pollution risks. UK environment minister Michael Meacher welcomed the initiative, which he said should lead not only to better pollution insurance but also to improved environmental management by industry. "The clear message to the bottom line of British companies is that it pays to get your environmental house in order," he said. "Not acting to reduce risk and loss exposure," on the other hand, "will lead to higher costs and a very real risk that insurance companies will restrict coverage". The voluntary guidelines do not apply to historic contamination or diffuse pollution, and leave the UK insurance industry still some way behind the sophistication achieved by counterparts in Germany, France and the Netherlands in their handling of environmental risks. They were welcomed by the Environment Agency of England and Wales as a good start, which would now have to be followed up by implementation.

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