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As climate crisis escalates, first Reinsurer stops underwriting certain coal projects

September 11, 2017

This year’s unprecedented super storms call attention to the climate responsibility of the insurance industry, which currently meets for its annual conference in Monte Carlo. As the world’s first reinsurer withdraws from underwriting certain coal projects, campaign groups call on the insurance industry to completely exit the coal sector.

On September 6 French insurer SCOR, the world’s fourth-largest reinsurance company, announced steps to disengage from the coal sector both as an investor and an underwriter. Friends of the Earth France and the international Unfriend Coal campaign welcome the new policy, and urge the company to address its gaping loopholes. At the start of the annual re/insurance conference in Monte Carlo, they also call on the insurance industry to completely disengage from the coal sector in order to stop the climate crisis from escalating further.

Reinsurer SCOR has announced that it has no more direct investments in companies deriving more than 30% of their turnover from thermal coal, and has pledged to make no new investments in such companies. This is positive and brings SCOR in line with its peers Allianz and Swiss Re. AXA and Munich Re, which still invest in companies deriving up to 50% of their revenue from coal, should follow this step.

As the world’s first reinsurance company, SCOR also announced that it will no longer “issue insurance or facultative reinsurance that would specifically encourage new greenfield thermal coal mines or stand-alone lignite mines or plants”. This will rule out SCOR support for coal mines such as Australia’s Carmichael project and the more than 100 lignite plants that are still being planned in Turkey, Eastern Europe, China and other countries.

Lucie Pinson, private finance campaigner at Friends of the Earth France, comments: “With its announcement SCOR recognizes the principle that insurers need to make their business sustainable both as investors and as underwriters. At the same time, the new policy still has many serious loopholes and falls far short of what climate action requires. Most importantly, it allows SCOR to continue underwriting hundreds of climate-destroying coal plants other than lignite plants, which is unacceptable.”

Regine Richter, a campaigner at Urgewald, adds: “Coal power plants of more than 800,000 megawatts are currently still in the pipeline or under construction. If completed, these projects will create even worse climate disasters than the current super storms. Companies striving to be at the forefront of a post-carbon economy must rule out insurance services for any new coal projects, not just coal mines and lignite plants.”

Peter Bosshard, coordinator of the Unfriend Coal campaign, comments: “This year’s hurricane season is a wake-up call for the insurance industry. SCOR is the first reinsurance company taking initial steps to no longer underwrite certain coal projects. We call on other reinsurers – particularly Swiss Re, Munich Re and Hannover Re – to take the lead with more comprehensive policy measures.”

“By continuing to insure their projects”, a separate statement of the Unfriend Coal campaign published at the start of the Monte Carlo conference says, “insurers are propping up the coal and other fossil fuel companies that are cooking our planet. If they stopped underwriting new coal projects, a small group of insurance companies could make a huge contribution to resolving the climate crisis while there is still time.”

 

Media contacts:

  • Lucie Pinson, private finance campaigner at Friends of the Earth France (Paris), +33 6 7954 3715
  • Peter Bosshard, coordinator of the Unfriend Coal campaign (San Francisco), +1 510 213 1438

For further information:

  • The Unfriend Coal campaign statement on the insurance industry, climate and coal is available here.
  • SCOR’s announcement is available here. Friends of the Earth France will prepare an in-depth critique of SCOR’s new policy when more details have become available.
  • The program of the Monte Carlo re/insurance conference is available here.

 

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