Executive Board
Prof. Swenja Surminski

Chair

Managing Director Climate and Sustainability at Marsh McLennan Advantage

Swenja was elected Chair in September 2021. She is a leading expert on climate resilience and adaptation. In May 2022 she took up a role as Managing Director Climate and Sustainability at Marsh McLennan Advantage, and is a member of the UK's Committee on Climate Change - Adaptation Committee. She is also a Professor in Practice at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, part of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), overseeing research projects on climate risk management, sustainable finance, climate and resilience strategies. She is an Associate at the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership and currently supports the InsuResilience Global Partnership in their work on integrated solutions for agriculture, infrastructure, nature based solutions and anticipatory action.  For 6 years she was Associate Principal at Vivid Economics and has held several positions in the international insurance industry.  A political scientist and ecological economist by training, her work embraces environmental, social and economic perspectives, with a focus on urban communities and the private sector. Swenja is a contributing author to the IPCC, lead author of the UK's Climate Change Risk Assessment, and research lead for the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance. Her work focuses on capacity building, translation and knowledge transfer between science, policy and industry, building on her work in the insurance industry and as advisor to governments, private sector and civil society, including as Visiting Academic at the Bank of England. She appears regularly in print, TV and online media.

Swenja was a Fulbright Scholar in the US, studying Ecological 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 2002. Her PhD project was funded by Munich Re, where she also worked as a researcher. As a student she volunteered in Kenya and Fiji, and did internships with Greenpeace, Deutscher Bundestag and Houses of Parliament in the UK. Swenja loves long-distance running, has four kids and one husky.

 

Christoph Bals

Vice-Chair

Executive Director Policy, Germanwatch

Christoph Bals is the Policy Director of the environmental and development organization Germanwatch. In 1991 he was a founding member of this NGO and has been working for Germanwatch since 1992. Christoph Bals is engaged since then in the politics of climate and development – in close contact with the most vulnerable as well as decision makers from politics and economy. He is chairman of the board of trustees of the "Stiftung Zukunftsfähigkeit" (Foundation for Sustainability) and deputy chairman of the Munich Climate Insurance Initiative (MCII) which is pushing for insurance for the people of developing countries against climate risks. He is also a founding member of the Renewables Grid Initiative (RGI) and has been a member of the board until 2018.
Bals is also member of the Sustainable Finance Committee of the Federal Government, of the political coordination of the international Climate Action Network and in the speaker board of Klima-Allianz Deutschland. Bals has taken part as an active observer in all the UN climate summits to date.

He has co-initiated many political initiatives in the area of climate and development as well as climate and economics - the European Business Council for Sustainable Energy, e-mission 55 and atmosfair, for example. Bals also shaped a number of target-oriented discourses with constructive players among businesses and unions. He furthermore developed suggestions on how religious communities can play a constructional role for a necessary transformation in a pluralistic society.
Bals studied theology (dipl.), economics and philosophy in Munich, Belfast, Erfurt and Bamberg.

Armin Haas

Treasurer

Senior Researcher at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, Potsdam (IASS)

Armin Haas is a senior researcher in the Systemic Risk project of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, Potsdam (IASS), and leads the research line Integrated Risk Governance of the Global Climate Forum (GCF).  At IASS, his main research foci concern the economic, ecological, and social sustainability of the financial system, and innovative contributions to the management and governance of systemic risks. He has led the IASS activities within the EU Horizon 2020 project DOLFINS and GREEN-WIN.

He holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Karlsruhe, Germany. Before joining IASS, he worked as senior scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and headed the PIK research group Bayesian Risk Management.

Apart from being a co-founder of MCII, Armin Haas founded ‘TheCompensators’ together with colleagues from PIK, to reduce personal CO2 emissions via the ETS.

More Information can be found at his personal IASS WEBSITE.

Photo: © Lotte Ostermann

Dr. Benjamin A. Antwi-Boasiako

Underwriter, Allianz SE Reinsurance

Benjamin Antwi-Boasiako joined Allianz in 2017 as a Senior Project Manager, championing insurance solutions through partnerships with private and public institutions to protect customers against damage resulting from extreme weather events. In January 2021, Benjamin moved to the underwriting unit of Allianz Reinsurance, assessing and pricing reinsurance risks.
Prior to joining the Allianz Group, Benjamin worked in the Ghanaian insurance industry for about ten years, including the piloting of weather index insurance for farmers.

A Chartered Insurer and an Associate of the Chartered Insurance Institute of London, Benjamin obtained his PhD from the Technische Universität Dresden and master’s from Potsdam Universität.

Benjamin has been a member of the MCII since 2018.

Paul Kovacs

Founder and Executive Director of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR)

Paul Kovacs is founder and Executive Director of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction at Western University. The Institute is a world-class, multi-disciplinary research centre based in Canada working with the insurance industry to identify best practices for society to adapt to climate extremes and build resilience to natural hazards.

Some of Paul’s international contributions includes work since 1996 as a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; a member of the World Meteorology Organization’s Society and Economic Research and Applications Working Group (SERA); a contributor to UNESCO’s International Flood Initiative; host of the 2014 annual conference of the International Society for Integrated Disaster Risk Management (IDRiM); contributor to the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR); and contributor to the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative.

Thomas Loster

Lecturer

Thomas R. Loster, a geographer, is a lecturer and was the chairman of the Munich Re Foundation.

In his work with the foundation, he addresses many major global challenges related to environmental and climate change, such as water as a resource and risk factor, population growth and disaster prevention as well as preparing people who are exposed to risk situations or providing support for developed and developing countries. Mr. Loster is an insurance expert for different products from macro-scale disaster insurance down to microinsurance. For 16 years he was with Munich Re’s Geoscience Research Group where he was in charge of issues such as weather perils, climate change and climate policy as well as statistical analysis of worldwide natural catastrophes and trend analyses. Mr. Loster was a member of the German National Committee of the “UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development” and a member of the “German Council for Sustainable Development”. Today he is lecturer at a number of universities including the University of Applied Sciences in Munich and Bonn-Rhein Sieg. Main topics include global sustainable solutions and social protection.

Dr. Smita Premchander

Founder & Board Member, Sampark, Bangalore 

Smita Premchander is a development practitioner and consultant of international repute, and has done extensive work on microfinance, poverty reduction, gender equality and women’s empowerment, elimination of child labour and bonded labour, crafts development, social inclusion, and sustainable development. She trained as an economist and banker and a PhD from UK and Switzerland.

Smita established Sampark in 1991, a highly accredited NGO with operations in India and Nepal, reaching over 50,000 women, children, and migrant workers. Sampark promotes empowering models of microfinance, rights-based access to official social protection and workers’ organisations.

Smita has worked on issues at the grassroots level, institutions and capacity building, design of large donor-funded programme, and policy and governance issues. She is invited to be a trainer, evaluator and advisor on projects of several international donor organizations, the World Bank, and UN organizations. She has worked in several countries including India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, Myanmar, Thailand, Germany, France, Switzerland, UK, and USA.

Smita has been a member, and since 2019, the Chairperson of the International Advisory Committee (the Board) of the United Nations University’s Institute of Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) in Bonn. She is also a Visiting Faculty at IIMA, where she teaches courses on Microfinance and Gender and Development Policies and Programmes. She serves on the board of several non-profit organizations, academic committees, and editorial committees of international peer-reviewed journals. She has been a member of task forces set up for policy and programme advice by state governments in India.

Laura Schäfer

Senior Advisor for Climate Risk Management, Germanwatch.

Laura Schäfer is a political scientist and a senior advisor for climate risk management with the environmental and development organization Germanwatch. For the last 10 years she has developed
strategies, ideas and research in the context of the national and international political and scientific discourse on climate change impacts. Her interest and work is focused on the nexus of  resilience building to deal with climate change impacts, climate finance and climate justice. Currently, her policy and think tank work concentrates on developing adequate solutions to address loss and damage in the international climate policy process, a human rights-based approach to climate risk financing as well as on measures to address climate change impacts from slow-onset processes. Laura is also a co-author of the annual Climate Risk Index. In this capacity, she analyses and ranks weather-related damage events (storms, floods, heat waves etc.) and their effects on states worldwide, aiming at contextualizing the ongoing international policy debates by looking at real world impacts of climate change. Prior to her work with Germanwatch, Laura was a project manager for the Munich Climate Insurance Initiative (MCII) and a Research Associate at the United Nations University – Institute for Environmental and Human Security. In this role, she managed the MCII collaboration with G7 InsuResilience and contributed to operationalizing the InsuResilience Global Partnership and ensuring the pro-poor focus of the Initiative.
Laura Schäfer is a co-coordinator of the Working Group on Adaptation and Loss and Damage of the Climate Action Network, a global network of more than 1,500 civil society organizations in over 130 countries. In this function, she coordinates civil society advocacy and policy work around the topics of adaptation and loss and damage in the context of the international climate policy process. Laura is also active in key initiatives aiming to increase the resilience of most vulnerable groups in developing countries to climate risks and impacts including the InsuResilience Global Partnership and its working groups. She is also a member of the High-level advisory board for the Climate Risk Atlas, the Friends of the COP Presidencies “Santiago Network on Loss and Damage” Group and the Loss and Damage Collaboration.

Laura is a political scientist and historian. She holds a Master of Arts in European and World Politics and Sustainable Development from the University of Bremen, focusing on international climate policy and climate change adaptation. She obtained her Master's degree with a thesis on climate justice in the context of German climate policy.

Dr. Zita Sebesvari

Deputy Director and Head of the Environmental Vulnerability and Ecosystem Services (EVES) Section, UNU-EHS.

Dr. Sebesvari is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of social-ecological risk assessments, ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction (Eco-DRR), and ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA). Dr. Sebesvari holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Science from the Carl von Ossietzky University in Oldenburg, Germany. She also holds a M.Sc. in History, and has a great interest in inter- and transdisciplinary research design and project implementation.

At UNU-EHS, Dr. Sebesvari holds the position of Deputy Director and Head of the Environmental Vulnerability and Ecosystem Services (EVES) Section. She serves currently as the chair of the sciencepolicy network Partnership for Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction (PEDRR) and as focal point for
the Friends of Ecosystem-based Adaptation (FEBA) network.

Dr. Sebesvari is author or co-author of around 70 publications, and served as a Lead Author of the IPCC Special Report on Ocean and the Cryosphere in a Changing Climate.