The insurance industry can be a leader and a repository of knowledge and expertise in managing our response to climate change was the message that closed a thought-provoking and successful conference from Anthony Hilton, financial editor of the Evening Standard, who acted as chairman for the second day.

The final session of Climate Change 2007 consisted of a presentation from David Williams, claims director at AXA Insurance, and a panel discussion with Alice LeBlanc, director of environment and climate change at AIG Corporate Affairs, Jane Milne, climate change manager at the Association of British Insurers (ABI), Williams and Hilton.

Williams reiterated comments he made in earlier sessions about the importance of involving smaller companies in the climate change debate, pointing out that of the estimated 8 million businesses in the UK, only 8,000 have more than 250 employees. Such to medium-sized enterprises not only make up the economic backbone of the country, he argues, they are also likely to suffer more from the impact of climate change events than large business with greater margins.

The floor was then opened up to a variety of questions that spanned subjects from both days of the conference, including the work of the ABI with government flood planners, the problems with exclusion clauses, the need for architects to think up to 30 years into the future when designing houses near to or on flood plains, and the value of green products to insurers.

Hilton closed a busy, controversial but very successful two days by reiterating that climate change is a problem that we face now and that, as an industry, we need a “coherent framework to adjust to the challenge of climate change.”

Calling on the insurance industry to play a leadership role, he concluded. “People want to be led – not to the Promised Land, but to dry land.”

Nick Thorpe is senior reporter at Global Reinsurance.