The new climate reality – a wake-up call for the Insurance industry to exit the coal sector

September 11, 2017

A series of super storms from the Atlantic to South Asia have taken thousands of lives, are creating untold human suffering and unleashing unprecedented economic damage. As harbingers of a grim new climate reality, they are also putting the need for urgent strengthened climate action forcefully on the agenda.

Governments, businesses and consumers need to rapidly accelerate the complete shift from coal and other fossil fuels to clean energy sources. History will judge those who continue to deny climate change and undermine climate action harshly.

The insurance industry has a particular responsibility to take climate action. Thanks to their in-depth research, insurance companies have been fully aware of the climate risks facing our societies for many years. They belong to the ultimate managers of risk and mitigate the damages created by the new climate reality for those who can afford it.

At the same time, the insurance industry fuels the climate crisis that it has been asked to mitigate. With more than $500 billion in investments in the fossil fuel sector, major insurance companies belong to the biggest owners of climate-destroying oil, gas and coal projects.

Even more importantly insurers are propping up the coal and other fossil fuel companies that are cooking our planet by continuing to insure their projects. 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.

Exiting coal and other fossil fuel projects is a moral responsibility. It is also in the long-term self-interest of the insurance industry. The escalating climate crisis will sooner or later overwhelm the industry’s ability to absorb growing risks through increased premiums, and make growing parts of the planet uninsurable. From August 8 to September 7 the S&P property and casualty insurance index fell by 9% in the face of current super storms.

Climate change is a clear and present danger. Our best insurance is to keep fossil fuels in the ground. As the insurance industry meets for its annual conference in Monte Carlo, the organizations engaged in the Unfriend Coal campaign reiterate the following demands:

  1.       Insurance companies need to stop insuring coal companies and projects and divest from the coal sector.
  2.       Insurance companies need to develop plans to move away from other fossil fuels.
  3.       As they exit the fossil fuel sector, insurers need to scale up their investments in clean energy sources.

The Unfriend Coal campaign includes organizations such as 350.org, Friends of the Earth France, Greenpeace Switzerland, Market Forces, Rainforest Action Network, Re:Common, ShareAction, the Sunrise Project, the UK Tar Sands Network and Urgewald. In November, the groups will publish a report scoring the response of leading insurance companies to the demands above.

Get the latest campaign updates on coal, climate and insurance.

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