Keynote Address 2022: Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara Emphasizes Mitigation of Climate Change Effects

California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo LaraIn 2022, Special District Legislative Days brought 200 special district officials to meet with State Legislators and Capitol staff.  The event was kicked off with a keynote address from California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara.

The California Department of Insurance is the consumer protection agency for the nation's largest insurance marketplace and safeguards the state’s consumers by fairly regulating the insurance industry.  Commissioner Lara provided an overview of initiatives undertaken by the department, including efforts to ensure homeowner’s insurance availability and affordability and mitigation of risks associated with climate change.

Residential homeowner’s insurance policies are held by 8.7 million Californians.  Lara highlighted the key points of the “Safer from Wildfires” program designed to help homeowners protect their homes and maintain access to affordable homeowner’s insurance.  The program aims to incentivize homeowners to take steps to mitigate risks, such as providing increased funding to retrofit homes with fire resistant building materials.  The agency has explored measures to standardize protection from wildfire risk for entire communities, including assessing evacuation routes, reduced fuels and increased defensible spaces. 

Key points of the Safer from Wildfire program include:

  1. Protect Structures
  2. Protect immediate area around structures
  3. Work as a community

The Department of Insurance has also worked with insurance companies to reduce non-renewals of policies after disasters or widespread losses.  The 1-year moratorium on non-renewals imposed by the department after a disaster has resulted in over 22,000 policies being continued that would have been non-renewed prior to the moratorium. Additionally, the department is pressing insurance agencies to improve the process of claims to reduce instances of homeowners accepting reduced benefits due to delayed payments for full benefits. 

Commissioner Lara also highlighted efforts to incorporate insurance company efforts into climate responses to reduce losses.  He provided the example of companies working to restore wetlands and natural waterways to absorb water, thereby reducing runoff that can result in floods and water damage. District public private partnerships help communities with mitigation projects and are essential to the reduction of risk across the state. 

Agencies interested in accessing funding assistance for climate change mitigation should visit and watch for grant opportunities and application dates and deadlines.  The department may also be contacted at 800-927-4357.