Why Insurers Need to Ditch Coal
Coal is the single biggest source of climate-destroying greenhouse gases. Coal is also one of the primary sources of air and water pollution, which kills an estimated 9 million people every year.
Our future wellbeing depends on the rapid, global phase-out of coal. The Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change has called for a “rapid and far-reaching transition” to a low-carbon economy of unprecedented scale. We can’t afford to build any new coal projects and need to essentially reduce coal consumption to zero by 2040.
In sharp contrast to the required shift, more than 1,000 new coal power plants are currently under construction or in the pipeline. If completed these projects would increase global coal power capacity by a third and make it impossible to avoid climate collapse.
Insurers – critical players in the transition away from fossil fuels
Insurance companies are in a unique position to accelerate the transition to a 100% renewable energy future. As risk managers they play a silent but essential role in deciding which types of project can be built and operated in a modern society. Without their insurance, almost no new coal mines and power plants can be built, and most existing projects will have to be phased out.
With assets of approximately $31 trillion, insurers are also the second largest group of institutional investors after pension funds. Reports commissioned by Ceres and the Unfriend Coal campaign have found that the largest U.S. and European insurers have invested close to 600 billion dollars in fossil fuels.
Insurance companies cover a large part of the increasing damages caused by ever more serious hurricanes, wildfires, floods and droughts. They have access to the world’s best climate science and have warned about climate risks since the 1970s. Continuing to prop up the coal sector is incompatible with their fundamental mission to protect us from catastrophic risk.
Our best insurance is to keep coal in the ground.
Insurers need to put their money where their mouth is. They need to:
- Stop insuring coal projects and companies;
- Divest from the coal industry;
- Insure and invest in the low-carbon economy;
- Adopt science-based targets to bring their business in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Coal becoming uninsurable
By July 2019, 17 insurers had adopted a policy restricting their coverage of the coal sector, and at least 25 insurers, with combined assets of more than $6 trillion, had divested from coal. The table below analyzes these policies against 5 important criteria. To find out about other insurers, read our most recent scorecard, which rates insurers on their climate and coal policies.
Many of the adopted policies contain loopholes or are not strong enough to support a phase-out of coal by 2030 in OECD and European countries, and 2040 elsewhere. Yet the momentum is growing, as 10 of the 17 policies were adopted in 2019, including two Australian and two US insurers. To make coal uninsurable for good, we must close the existing loopholes and push other insurers to join the trend!