Swenja Surminski

Senior Research Fellow

Swenja is a Senior Research Fellow at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, part of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). She is Programme Leader for the ‘climate risk, insurance and private sector’ work-stream at the institute, overseeing research projects from a multi-disciplinary field. Her research focuses on climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction with a special interest in the role of the private sector. The geographic scope of her works spans from the United Kingdom across the European Union to developing countries.

Swenja is the GRI-lead in the Costing Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation in Ireland project, in collaboration with University College Cork and funded by the Environmental Protection Agency in Ireland.

She is the PI of the new LSE IGA/Rockefeller project ‘Insurance as a tool for financial and climate resilience?  Using innovations in subjective measures to explore how climate insurance can improve resilience of the world’s poor’.

Swenja is also part of the DFID-funded Uncertainty reduction in models for understanding development (UMFULA) project, exploring insurance decision making in a developing country context.

From 2012 – 2016 she was Principal Investigator for the EU’s FP7-project ENHANCE, conducting an analysis of disaster risk management partnerships across Europe and an investigation of the UK’s new Flood Re insurance arrangement.

She was appointed Visiting Academic at the Bank of England in 2015 to work on the regulator’s first report on climate change.

Swenja was selected lead author for the business and industry chapter of the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment in 2017 , and worked from 2014 -2016 as the lead academic for a World Bank project on the benefits of Disaster Risk Management (DRM), working with the Overseas Development Institute to explore how the co-benefits of DRM measures can strengthen the economic case for investment.

Swenja has published widely, is contributing author to the IPCC, and works closely with industry and policy makers at a global level, in a developing country context, across the EU and within the UK.

Background

Prior to joining LSE in 2010  Swenja spent more than ten years in the insurance industry working on climate and risks management, including roles at Munich Re, Marsh Mc Lennon and the Association of British Insurers. Swenja was a Fulbright Scholar in the US, studying Environmental Economics and International Relations at the University of New Hampshire and received a PhD in Political Science from Hamburg University for her work on ‘Climate Change and the Insurance Industry’ in 2000.

Research interests

  • Insurance of climate risks: governance, public-private partnerships and political processes
  • The role of insurance in climate resilient development
  • Flood insurance in developed countries, emerging markets and the developing world;
  • UNFCCC’s Loss and Damage policy area
  • The benefits of disaster risk management
  • Private sector adaptation – SMEs and MNCs
Research article  4 September, 2017

Insurance, public assistance and household flood risk reduction: a comparative study of Austria, England and Romania

In light of increasing losses from floods many researchers and policy makers are looking for ways to encourage flood risk reduction among communities, business, and households. In this study the authors investigate risk reduction behavior at the household level in three European Union (EU) Member States with fundamentally different insurance and compensation schemes. read more »

Research article  28 March, 2017

Assessing surface water flood risk and management strategies under future climate change: insights from an agent-based model

Jenkins, K., Surminski, S., Hall, J. and Crick, F. (2017) Assessing surface water flood risk and management strategies under future climate change: insights from an agent-based model. Science of the … read more »

Research article  15 February, 2017

Fit for Purpose and Fit for the Future? An Evaluation of the UK’s New Flood Reinsurance Pool

This paper evaluates the UK’s “Flood Re” program, including the roles of the public and private sectors, risk modeling and risk communication, technical underwriting, distributional aspects, and behavioral implications of … read more »

2016

Research article  2 December, 2016

Investigating the risk reduction potential of disaster insurance across Europe

Surminski, Swenja (2016) Investigating the risk reduction potential of disaster insurance across Europe. The Geneva Papers on Risk and Insurance Issues and Practice . ISSN 1018-5895

Research article  8 September, 2016

Insurance Instruments for Climate-resilient Development

In Fankhauser, S. and McDermott, T., eds. Economics of Climate Resilient Development. Edward Elgar.

Research article  12 July, 2016

Business and Industry report prepared for the Adaptation Sub-Committee of the Committee on Climate Change

Surminski, S., Style, D., Di Mauro, M., Townsend, A., Baglee, A., Cameron, C., Connell, R., Deyes, K., Haworth, A., Ingirige, B., Muir-Wood, R., Proverbs, D., Watkiss, P., and Sze Goh, … read more »

Research article  14 June, 2016

Forward-looking flood insurance? (Zukunftsorientierte Flutversicherung?)

Thoughts on the introduction of flood re in the United Kingdom. read more »

Working paper  9 June, 2016

Strengthening insurance partnerships in the face of climate change – insights from an agent-based model of flood insurance in the UK

This paper investigates how partnerships can incentivise flood risk reduction by focusing on the UK public-private partnership on flood insurance. read more »

Research article  19 May, 2016

Multinational and large national corporations and climate adaptation: are we asking the right questions? A review of current knowledge and a new research perspective

Adapting to climate change requires the engagement of all actors in society. Until recently, the predominant research focus has been on governments, communities, and the third sector as key actors … read more »

Swenja Surminski
Working paper  24 March, 2016

You never adapt alone – the role of Multi-Sectoral Partnerships in addressing urban climate risks

While multi-sectoral partnerships (MSPs) now form an increasingly popular and important part of the global climate and disaster risk governance landscape, particularly in urban areas, literature offers little critical investigation … read more »

Research article  24 March, 2016

How insurance can support climate resilience

Insurance is gaining importance in and beyond the climate negotiations and offers many opportunities to improve climate risk management in developing countries. However, some caution is needed, if current momentum … read more »

Book  1 March, 2016

Realising the 'triple dividend of resilience' - A new business case for disaster risk management

This book develops a new business case for investment based on the multiple dividends of resilience. This looks beyond only avoided losses (the first dividend) to the wider benefits gained … read more »

Working paper  8 February, 2016

Assessing surface water flood risk and management strategies under future climate change: an agent-based model approach

Flooding is the costliest natural disaster worldwide. In the UK flooding is listed as a major risk on the National Risk Register with surface water flooding the most likely cause … read more »

2015

Working paper  30 September, 2015

Does it matter what you call it? Reflections on how companies voluntarily disclose their adaptation activities

Adapting to climate change requires the engagement of a wide range of stakeholders, including the private sector. However, little is still known about if and how corporations, particularly those operating … read more »

Research article  21 September, 2015

Observations on the role of the private sector in the UNFCCC's loss and damage of climate change work program

This paper presents evidence of current engagement and expectations, from official submissions to the UNFCCC, L&D literature, and relates this to experiences from the fields of disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA). read more »

Research article  16 June, 2015

Brief Communication: Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction – success or warning sign for Paris?

In March 2015, a new international blueprint for disaster risk reduction (DRR) has been adopted in Sendai, Japan, at the end of the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk … read more »

Research article  27 April, 2015

Reflections on the current debate on how to link flood insurance and disaster risk reduction in the European Union

In this paper we investigate if and how current EU policies influence flood insurance. read more »

Working paper  30 March, 2015

Novel and improved insurance instruments for risk reduction

In the context of natural disaster insurance and risk reduction this paper looks at how to assess existing insurance offerings and how to design new schemes. read more »

Working paper  11 March, 2015

Multinational corporations and climate adaptation – Are we asking the right questions? A review of current knowledge and a new research perspective

Adapting to climate change requires the engagement of all actors in society. Until recently, predominant research focus has been on governments, communities and the third sector as key actors in … read more »

2014

Research article  18 December, 2014

The Role of Insurance in Reducing Direct Risk - The Case of Flood Insurance

This article explores the current understanding of flood insurance with a specific focus on the ability of flood insurance to contribute to direct risk reduction. read more »

Research article  18 November, 2014

Flood insurance in England - An assessment of the current and newly proposed insurance scheme in the context of rising flood risk

By applying our analytical framework we find an absence of formal incentive mechanisms for risk reduction in the existing and proposed Flood Re scheme. We identify the barriers for applying insurance to risk reduction and point to some possible modifications in the Flood Re proposal to deliver a greater link between risk transfer and risk reduction. read more »

Working paper  5 November, 2014

Taking an organisational approach to private sector adaptation – the case of Tata Teleservices in India

A growing paradigm of ‘engaging the private sector’ is noticeable in all areas of climate risk management and adaptation. However, there is limited empirical investigation into what action companies are … read more »

Working paper  4 August, 2014

Reflection on the current debate on how to link flood insurance and disaster risk reduction in the European Union

Reflection on the current debate on how to link flood insurance and disaster risk reduction in the European Union read more »

Research article  4 August, 2014

The concept of loss and damage of climate change – a new challenge for climate decision-making? A climate science perspective

This paper reviews the implications of Loss and Damage L&D for decision-making with a special focus on the role of climate science. read more »

Research article  26 March, 2014

Managing unnatural disaster risk from climate extremes

Mechler, R. Bouwer, R.M., Linnerooth-Bayer, J.,  Hochrainer-Stigler, S., Aerts, J.C.J.H., Surminski, S., Williges, K. (2014): Managing unnatural disaster risk from climate extremes. Nature Climate Change  4, 235–237 (2014) External link to … read more »

Research article  23 January, 2014

Policy indexes as tools for decision makers - the case of climate policy

The last two decades have witnessed an explosion in the publication of country indexes that measure and rank the relative national policy performances of governments. To illustrate the challenges … read more »

Working paper  1 January, 2014

Flood insurance in England - an assessment of the current and newly proposed insurance scheme in the context of rising flood risk

Flooding is the largest natural disaster risk in England and it is expected to rise even further as we experience a changing climate and continue putting … read more »

2013

Working paper  1 December, 2013

Observations on the role of the private sector in the UNFCCC's loss and damage of climate change work programme

Private sector engagement, particularly in relation to public policy based action and strategy, has become a buzz word in most policy areas, but this is often … read more »

Research article  21 October, 2013

Private-sector adaptation to climate risk

Reference Surminski, S. October 2013. Private-sector adaptation to climate risk. Nature Climate Change, v.3, pp.943-945.  

Research article  21 October, 2013

Flood insurance schemes and climate adaptation in developing countries

Risk transfer, including insurance, is widely recognized as a tool for increasing financial resilience to severe weather events such as floods. The application of this mechanism varies widely across … read more »

Working paper  1 July, 2013

Do flood insurance schemes in developing countries provide incentives to reduce physical risks?

Risk transfer, including insurance, is widely recognised as a tool for increasing financial resilience to severe weather events, such as floods. The application of this mechanism … read more »

Research article  26 May, 2013

Natural catastrophe insurance in China: policy and regulatory drivers for the agricultural and the property sectors

In: Orie, M. and Stahel, W. R. (eds.) The Geneva Reports Risk and Insurance Research Insurers’ contributions to disaster reduction—a series of case studies 7. The Geneva Association: Geneva, Switzerland. … read more »

Research article  26 March, 2013

The role of insurance risk transfer in encouraging climate investment in developing countries

In: Dupuy, P-M., Viñuales, J. E. (eds.) Harnessing foreign investment to promote environmental protection. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp. 228-250.

Research article  21 March, 2013

Flutversicherung – Wie der Staat und die Versicherer zusammenkommen können

Reference Suminski, S. 2014. Flutversicherung – Wie der Staat und die Versicherer zusammenkommen können, Zeitschrift fuer das Versicherungswesen ZfV 04/2014.

Research article  21 March, 2013

A preliminary assessment of the impact of climate change on non-life insurance demand in the BRICS economies

Over the past decade, the increase in insurance demand in the BRICS has been a key driver of global non-life premium growth. Current forecasts suggest that these markets will … read more »

2012

Working paper  1 September, 2012

The roles of public and private actors in the governance of adaptation: the case of agricultural insurance in India

Climate change adaptation is an increasingly important field and will involve a range of actors from national governments to private companies, communities and households. There is … read more »

Working paper  1 September, 2012

Policy indexes – what do they tell us and what are their applications? The case of climate policy and business planning in emerging markets

The last two decades have witnessed an explosion in the publication of country indexes that measure and rank the relative policy performances of governments. Whilst there … read more »

2011

Working paper  1 September, 2011

A preliminary assessment of the impact of climate change on non-life insurance demand in the BRICS economies

Over the past decade, growth in insurance demand in the BRICS economies has been a key driver of global non-life premium growth. Current forecasts suggest that … read more »

More in research publications

Policy report  17 May, 2017

Science for disaster risk management 2017: knowing better and losing less

This report is the result of the multi-sectorial and multi-disciplinary networking process and represents the combined effort of more than two hundred, mostly European, experts. It will support the integration … read more »

Policy paper  8 May, 2017

Fit for the future – The reform of flood insurance in Ireland: resolving the data controversy and supporting climate change adaptation

This paper provides suggestions to inform the current debates about flood insurance and climate adaptation in Ireland, proposing a radical shift away from the current approach to collecting and sharing flood risk data. read more »

Policy report  15 February, 2017

What can the United States learn from the United Kingdom’s new flood reinsurance pool?

The UK’s new Flood Re program has supported the private flood insurance market, but also demonstrates that flood insurance cannot be kept affordable without a concerted effort to reduce … read more »

2016

Policy presentation  7 December, 2016

WIPCAD Lecture Series: Insurance in the face of climate change - private sector risk transfer, governance instrument, or global compensation mechanism?

Presentation given as part of the WIPCAD Lecture Series as Potsdam University. Watch a video of this presentation:

Policy paper  16 November, 2016

Science for Loss and Damage: Four research contributions to the debate

The Loss and Damage Network is a network of scientists and practitioners informing the loss and damage debate and includes members from about 20 institutions. This summary paper, written on … read more »

Policy paper  8 November, 2016

Loss and Damage of Climate Change – from Managing Risks to the Politics of Compensation

Surminski, S. Nov 2016 – The Political Anthropologist. External link to article


Policy paper  24 March, 2016

Submission to the inquiry on ‘Future flood prevention’ by the House of Commons Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

This is a submission by the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of … read more »

Swenja Surminski
Policy paper  10 March, 2016

Submission to the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage

Submission to the call for ‘best practices, challenges and lessons learned from existing financial instruments at all levels that address the risk of loss and damage associated with the adverse … read more »

2015

Policy report  7 December, 2015

The triple dividend of resilience

This report is an output of an initiative funded by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) at the World Bank and led by the Overseas Development Institute … read more »

Policy report  15 August, 2015

The role of flood insurance in reducing direct risk

Chapter in ‘Future Directions of Consumer Flood Insurance in the UK’, compendium published by Southampton Law School, University of Southampton. 2015.

2014

Policy report  26 April, 2014

Adaptation Planning and Implementation

Contributing author to Chapter 15. In: Fields, C. et al. (eds.) IPCC WP2 5th Assessment Report – Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Stanford, CA, USA. – … read more »

2013

Policy report  26 September, 2013

Climate change and extreme weather events in developing countries. Future Risk: climate change and energy security – global challenges and implications

Chartered Insurance Institute, Centenary Future Risk Series: Report 3. Chartered Insurance Institute, London, UK. – Link to publisher

Policy paper  1 August, 2013

Response to public consultation on ‘Securing the future availability and affordability of home insurance in areas of flood risk’

Flooding is the biggest natural disaster risk in England. Flood risk is expected to increase due to climate change and continued development of floodplains for residential and commercial property, which increases the exposure of homes and businesses. Addressing the causes and consequences of flooding is very important and we welcome the recent efforts by the Government and the insurance industry to reform the approach to flood insurance in England. read more »

Policy paper  1 July, 2013

Response to European Commission's green paper on the insurance of natural and man-made disasters

of key points Insurance is one tool amongst others in a holistic natural disaster risk management strategy. Risk transfer alone, without consideration of risk reduction efforts, is not a … read more »

Policy paper  1 April, 2013

Disaster resilience and post-2015 development goals: the options for economics targets and indicators

In 2015, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire. Detailed discussions are already underway to inform the post-2015 development goals. This paper seeks to inform discussions around appropriate economics … read more »

Policy report  1 March, 2013

An Independent National Adaptation Programme for England

An Independent National Adaptation Programme for England read more »

2012


Policy paper  1 June, 2012

Climate change, vulnerability and human mobility: perspectives of refugees from the East and Horn of Africa

UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the United Nations University for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS). June 2012. Report no. 1. Surminski, S. June 2012. Future Risk: climate change and energy … read more »

Policy paper  10 May, 2012

Expert meeting on assessing the risk of loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change

Surminski, S., Lopez, A., et al. March 2012. Current knowledge on relevant methodologies and data requirements, as well as lessons learned and gaps identified at different levels, in assessing the … read more »

2011

Policy paper  1 December, 2011

Building effective and sustainable risk transfer initiatives in low- and middle-income economies: what can we learn from existing insurance schemes?

Negotiators for Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are exploring if and how risk transfer solutions could enhance adaptation efforts in those countries that are … read more »

Policy paper  1 June, 2011

Open questions about how to address 'loss and damage' from climate change in the most vulnerable countries: a response to the Cancún Adaptation Framework

Extreme weather events represent the earliest, and in some places most significant, threats to the most vulnerable countries that are driven by climate change. An outcome of the 16th session … read more »

More in policy publications

In the news  9 May, 2017

Homes could be priced out of flood cover

Irish Independent, 9 May 2017

2016

In the news  20 July, 2016

Infrastructure 'still faces flood risk'

BBC, 20 July

Commentary  6 July, 2016

Strengthening the UK’s flood insurance partnership in the face of rising risks: what role for property developers?

Florence Crick and Swenja Surminski outline ways in which property developers could help reduce flood insurance premiums. read more »

In the news  7 June, 2016

When disaster strikes, who pays for the impacts of climate change?

Insurance is not always the most suitable solution when it comes to paying for the impacts of climate change writes Swenja Surminski read more »

Commentary  8 April, 2016

Flood Re: a missed opportunity for sustainable flood risk management?

The government and the insurance industry have recently launched Flood Re, a scheme that aims to make home insurance affordable to those living in a flood risk area. But that alone does not solve the problem, writes Swenja Surminski. read more »

In the news  18 March, 2016

Enhance video interview with Swenja Surminski, London School of Economics

Enhance video interview with Swenja Surminski, London School of Economics from Arctik sprl on Vimeo.

In the news  19 February, 2016

Flood Re will struggle to keep premiums low in the face of increased risk

Financial Times, 8 February


In the news  15 February, 2016

Taking a risk on the weather

Financial World , Feb 2016 . pp. 49-51

Swenja Surminski
In the news  3 February, 2016

Taking a risk on the weather

Swenja Surminski looks at how the insurance industry is having to adapt to cope with the challenges of possible climate change and highlights some of the problems it faces read more »

2015

In the news  21 October, 2015

Investigating private sector adaptation to climate change: The case of Tata Teleservices

Jennifer Steeves and Swenja Surminski reflect on findings of their recent research into what companies are already doing in terms of climate change adaptation. read more »

Commentary  20 March, 2015

Letters from Sendai – No 5: New disaster risk reduction framework agreed

The United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) has just concluded in Sendai, Japan. Swenja Surminski reports on the final agreement. read more »

Commentary  18 March, 2015

Letters from Sendai: Agreeing a post-2015 framework on disaster risk reduction

A series of four short commentaries by Swenja Surminski from The United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) continues in Sendai, Japan. read more »

Commentary  18 March, 2015

Letters from Sendai – No 4: Unlocking the ‘Triple Resilience Dividend’?

A new perspective on disaster risk management and development read more »

Commentary  17 March, 2015

Letters from Sendai – No 3: Let’s do this together: The quest for private sector engagement

The devastating cyclone in Vanatu last weekend is a stark reminded of the urgency to make progress in the field of disaster risk reduction. Nonetheless, the scenes in Sendai this week are not too dissimilar from the marathon climate change negotiations we have come to expect each December. read more »

Commentary  17 March, 2015

Letters from Sendai – No 2: Risk Assessment

Risk assessment is at the heart of any risk management effort. In the context of disaster and climate risks advances are being made to improve our understanding of current and future risks. read more »

Commentary  14 March, 2015

Letters from Sendai – No 1: 2015: A pivotal year for global climate risk management?

2015 could become a milestone year. A number of international policy processes culminate this year, offering a chance to integrate disaster risk reduction, climate change policy and poverty reduction more closely. read more »

2014

In the news  5 December, 2014

Lima: a stronger role for climate risk management

Nexus – Research blog of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

In the news  15 May, 2014

Flood risk and climate change implications for MSPs

Enhance – Partnership for Risk Reduction

Commentary  14 February, 2014

Managing flood risk: Why flood insurance needs to send the right signals

Anticipatory action and preparedness is much more economic than providing disaster aid. However, there have recently been many missed opportunities to put sensible long-term risk management in response to climate … read more »

2013

In the news  20 September, 2013

The new flood insurance scheme will not cope with rising flood risk due to climate change and building in floodplains

LSE British Politics and Policy Blog, 20 September 2013

2012

Commentary  18 July, 2012

Climate change in India: what role for insurance and the private sector?

LSE’s research staff argue that the commercial viability of crop insurance must be considered before private insurance companies can play an effective role in climate change adaptation. read more »

Commentary  26 January, 2012

Extreme measures

Post – subscription is required.

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2016

Book Launch 8 Sep 2016

Book launch | The economics of climate-resilient development

Professor Sam Fankhauser and Dr Thomas McDermott host a panel debate to launch their new edited volume ‘The Economics of Climate-Resilient Development‘. The panel includes a number of the contributors to the … read more »

1970

Seminars 1 Jan 1970

ICCG Webinar: The Triple Dividend of Resilience - webinar video

The ICCG webinar was given by Swenja Surminski, Senior Research Fellow at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment on the 8 February 2017.

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2016

Book  1 March, 2016

Realising the 'triple dividend of resilience' - A new business case for disaster risk management

This book develops a new business case for investment based on the multiple dividends of resilience. This looks beyond only avoided losses (the first dividend) to the wider benefits gained … read more »

More in book publications