The German insurance industry sees progress in the political debate on protection against floods and other natural disasters.

"There is some movement," said Anja Käfer-Rohrbach, Deputy Managing Director of the industry association GDV, in Berlin on Thursday. In contrast to the devastating floods in the Ahr valley, there is now a growing awareness among politicians that the prevention of damage and adaptation to the consequences of climate change must be an important part of the concept. However, the federal and state governments must also invest in flood protection. Dams and dykes also need to be maintained so that they do not break after two days of continuous rain, as happened recently in Bavaria, said GDV expert Oliver Hauner.

The German Insurance Association (GDV) is against compulsory insurance, but can well imagine an opt-out solution. This would involve writing to customers to ask them to include flood and earthquake cover in their policy. If they did not want this, they would have to actively object within a certain period of time. However, Hauner emphasized that such an action would have to be secured by law. GDV believes that this would increase the proportion of households insured against flooding from the current 50 to 75 to 80 percent. "That would be a big step," said Käfer-Rohrbach. According to expert estimates, the annual premium for flood protection alone would be around 190 euros. That is "not completely out of the blue", said Hauner.

Continuous rain had caused many rivers in parts of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg to burst their banks, resulting in widespread flooding. According to initial estimates, this caused damage of 100 million euros for R+V Versicherung alone. "The water was incredibly destructive," said CEO Klaus Endres. There had already been floods in Saarland and Lower Saxony this year, which each caused 200 million euros in property damage across the industry.

SÖDER WANTS ROUND TABLE WITH INSURERS

Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) announced in the Bundestag that he would make natural hazard insurance the subject of his meeting with the state premiers on June 20. "We are making progress when it comes to natural hazard insurance," said Scholz in a government statement. "Owners of houses and apartments must be able to insure themselves against natural hazards." Bavaria's Minister President Markus Söder (CSU) had suggested a round table with insurers in the "Augsburger Allgemeine" newspaper: "We must find a solution that is feasible for everyone involved: citizens, insurers and the state."

The GDV is ready for this: "We have been waiting three years to be able to discuss the topic in its entirety," said Käfer-Rohrbach. Flood insurance is only part of the solution, however, because it could lead to false incentives. "But you can't win elections with prevention," said Hauner.

The French model of natural hazard insurance is certainly not a model for Germany, said Käfer-Rohrbach. In the neighboring country, the state has been covering damage from natural disasters that go beyond private insurance cover against storms, hail and frost for more than 40 years. Customers pay a surcharge of twelve percent on their insurance premiums. "The system has been clearly in deficit since 2015," said the GDV Managing Director. The state has to keep adding money. From 2025, the levy will therefore rise to 20 percent from 12 percent. Furthermore, deductibles of a maximum of 1520 euros, even in high-risk areas, would not provide any incentive to prevent damage.

In Germany, insurers only need the state to cover maximum losses; insurers and reinsurers can handle the rest. "We don't have a capacity problem in reinsurance," said Käfer-Rohrbach.

(Report by Alexander Hübner, Andreas Rinke and Alexander Ratz; edited by Sabine Wollrab. If you have any queries, please contact our editorial team at berlin.newsroom@thomsonreuters.com)