HuffPo: Talk is cheap when you’re funding and insuring the dirtiest fossil fuel

June 19, 2017

Among the many journalists covering our action against the world’s biggest insurance company CEO’s last week was this excellent Huffington Post article.

Here are some of the highlights:

Insurers Talk A Lot About Climate Change, But Most Still Do Business In Coal

The insurance industry’s annual confab last week was supposed to be a dry, stoic affair.

Instead, anti-coal protesters stormed the 44th Geneva Association conference at a ritzy hotel in San Francisco, plastered the bathrooms with slogan stickers and slipped fliers under the doors to executives’ rooms. A plane toting a banner reading “unfriend coal” circled the high-rise where the executives held their closing dinner and cocktail party.

The activists’ demands were twofold: Insurance companies should divest from coal projects and stop underwriting the fossil fuel.

Peter Bosshard, who coordinated last week’s protest for the activist group Unfriend Coal, said convincing insurers to abandon coal would hasten the industry’s demise.

“It’s the one critical fact that’s been left off the hook,” Bosshard, who works for the global warming advocacy group the Sunrise Project, told HuffPost on Monday. “Insurance is a precondition for any major project to go ahead. It’s one thing to divest, but more important is to stop insuring coal.”

Some companies don’t offer any insurance for coal projects. These include New Jersey-based giant Prudential, Canada’s Manulife Financial, the United Kingdom’s Aviva and the Netherlands’ Aegon.

Aviva and Aegon also have moved to pull money they manage out of coal companies.

“We decided last year to strike coal mining off our investment list,” Dick Schiethart, an Aegon spokesman, told HuffPost by email. “We have added companies that derive more than 30% of their revenues from thermal coal mining to our exclusion list.”

Germany’s Allianz, France’s SCOR and Switzerland’s Swiss Re similarly have committed to divest, but have stopped short of cutting off insurance coverage for coal-heavy clients. In 2015, Munich-based Allianz imposed stricter environmental standards on insurance for industrial firms.

None of the other firms responded to HuffPost’s request for comment on Friday.

“Given the clean energy transition underway, all insurers should assess their risk exposure to carbon-intensive fossil fuel industries ― including oil, gas and coal ― and disclose this information, along with their plans to reduce their fossil-fuel risk exposures, to industry regulators and other stakeholders,” Cynthia McHale, insurance director at the sustainability shareholder advocate Ceres, told HuffPost. “Coal rapidly is being replaced and eclipsed by clean, renewable energy. The market growth opportunities are with renewables, not coal.”

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