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Climate campaigners ask global insurance CEOs to get serious about ditching coal

May 29, 2019

Global insurance think-tank refuses to discuss fossil fuel phase out plans at annual meeting

Buenos Aires, Wednesday 29 May. 2019. With banners and sirens, activists from Greenpeace and the Unfriend Coal campaign alerted insurance CEOs, who were convening for their annual meeting in Buenos Aires, to the climate emergency gripping the planet and demanded that they stop insuring new and existing coal projects.

The CEOs of the 80 largest insurance companies are gathering in Buenos Aires this week for the annual get-together of the Geneva Association, an insurance industry think-tank. Like last year, the CEOs refused to engage with campaign groups about their response to the climate crisis, the biggest risk threatening the planet. They did not respond to repeated requests submitted by the Unfriend Coal campaign since January to discuss the responsibility of the insurance industry for phasing out fossil fuels at their meeting.1

Paul Horsman, Global Campaign Leader at Greenpeace Andino, said: “Given their access to the latest climate science and their role as global risk managers, insurance companies are in a unique position to accelerate the transition to a fossil-free future. We demand that insurers ensure our future, not coal and tar sands projects.”

So far, 14 insurers from Europe and Australia have adopted policies to stop or severely restrict insuring new coal projects.2 In contrast, US insurers like Liberty Mutual, AIG and Chubb and Asian insurers like Sompo and Tokio Marine are yet to take any steps to end insuring the fossil fuel projects which are driving the climate emergency and making the planet uninsurable.

In its latest report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that under its mainstream scenario 75% of existing coal operations need to be retired by 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. Yet while many insurers have ended insurance for new coal projects many of them continue to support existing operations. So far only four insurers – Allianz, AXA, QBE and Swiss Re – have adopted policies that are strict enough to significantly limit their coverage for existing coal projects. Companies like Generali, Hannover Re and Munich Re have adopted no or only weak policies on phasing out existing coal operations.

At their protest the Greenpeace and Unfriend Coal activists announced that they would expand their efforts in the coming months, They called on the European insurers to close the loopholes in their policies, and on the Asian and US insurers to join the coal exit train without delay.

Lucie Pinson, European coordinator of the Unfriend Coal campaign, said: “It is unacceptable that insurers continue to prop up coal projects while raising rates and withdrawing cover from climate-affected communities. We will initiate campaigns targeting the main insurance laggards in the US and in Asia in the coming months.”

Matias Asun, National Director for Greenpeace en Chile said “In Chile, the coal industry has weak regulations, resulting in severe impacts on the health of communities and the environment. The subsidisation of the industry provides irresponsible protection for an industry responsible for the climate crisis gripping the planet. With the Climate Conference meeting here at the end of this year, Chile must declare that the era of coal must end now.”

1 A copy of the Unfriend Coal request to the Geneva Association is available on request.

2 The 14 insurers are Allianz, AXA, Generali, Hannover Re, Mapfre, Munich Re, Nationale Nederlanden (which announced a new coal exit policy yesterday), QBE, SCOR, Swiss Re, Talanx, Uniqa, VIG and Zurich.

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