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GENEVA-U.S. insurers are being urged by the United Nations to sign the U.N.'s Statement of Environment Commitment by the Insurance Industry and to take a more active part in climate change negotiations.

The U.N. Environment Program's Insurance Initiative has 71 insurance and reinsurance company signatories from 25 countries around the world and, of those, 21 companies formed an association this summer to strengthen their voice in intergovernmental climate change debates.

Despite the fact that the largest weather-related losses to the industry occur regularly in the United States, U.S. insurers are noticeably absent among the U.N.'s list of signatories. In fact, just one U.S.-based company, Employers Reinsurance Corp., has signed the industry statement, and no U.S. companies have joined the association.

The statement advocates sustainable development with a greater focus on environmental management.

"It is a major problem that we don't have an active U.S. insurance company on board," said Bernd Schanzenbaecher, an officer with the Geneva-based UNEP.

Extreme weather events have caused substantial losses to the U.S. insurance industry and "it would be logical if more U.S. companies get engaged in the UNEP Initiative and share their experience with other nations," he pointed out.

Part of the problem is that the United Nations has a "weaker image" in the United States, said Andrew Dlugolecki, an underwriting manager with General Accident Fire & Life Assurance Corp. P.L.C. in Perth, Scotland, and a member of the UNEP's Insurance Assn.

The U.N. often is seen as a Eurocentric organization, noted Mr. Schanzenbaecher. However, the UNEP Insurance Initiative is a global initiative with signatories in every continent, he said.

Mr. Schanzenbaecher also pointed out that an independent assessment by a U.S. attorney on the legal obligations of the UNEP Banking Statement, which is similar to the Insurance Statement, has concluded that "even a direct breach of the Statement appears unlikely to expose a signatory to new forms of liabilities under U.S. law."