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Insuring Coal No More

The Unfriend Coal and Insure Our Future campaigns call on insurance companies to stop underwriting and investing in climate-destroying coal projects. This monthly newsletter shares campaign highlights on climate, coal, and the insurance industry. 

First specialty insurer exits coal and tar sands

On October 16 AXIS Capital adopted a new policy ending insurance for new coal and tar sands projects and companies. AXIS is the second US insurer to exit the coal and the first to exit the tar sands sector, and the 17th insurer to end coal insurance overall.

According to the new policy, AXIS will not provide insurance or facultative reinsurance for new thermal coal or oil sands extraction and pipeline projects and their dedicated infrastructure. It will also end cover for companies generating at least 30% of their revenues from thermal coal mining, producing at least 30% of their power from coal, or holding more than 20% of their reserves in oil sands. Renewals will be considered on a case-by-case basis until January 1, 2023.

The policy is weakened in that it allows exceptions to be “considered on a limited basis until January 1, 2025 in countries where sufficient access to alternative energy sources is not available”. Particularly with a vague term such as “sufficient access” this provision is not in line with the UN Secretary General’s call to build no new coal projects after 2020.

With AXIS Capital, carriers controlling 45% of the non-life reinsurance market have now adopted coal exit policies. Just as importantly AXIS, whose CEO Albert Benchimol sits on the Lloyd’s Council, is the first specialty insurer exiting the coal and tar sands sectors. Its bold step adds pressure on other US insurers and specialty insurers to phase out coal and tar sands.

Elana Sulakshana of Rainforest Action Network (RAN) welcomed the new policy “as a major win for our climate and for Indigenous rights”. In a comment the RAN campaigner added: “AXIS has raised the bar for U.S. insurers by restricting both coal and tar sands insurance. The ball is now in Liberty Mutual and AIG’s court to take responsibility for their role in the climate crisis.”

Non-violent direct actions target coal insurers

As climate activists are rising up around the world a growing number of non-violent direct actions are targeting the remaining coal insurers. Dressed up as canaries in a coal mine, Extinction Rebels from Wales and Bristol blockaded the Walkie Talkie building, the home of Liberty Mutual, the Markel Corporation and Tokio Marine Kiln in London, on October 14.

On October 15 Australia’s Galilee Blockade along with an Extinction Rebellion choir occupied the Lloyd’s office in Sydney, calling on the Corporation to rule out insurance for the Adani Group’s Carmichael coal mine (see below). On the same day, Greenpeace Italy introduced art works depicting coal projects at an exhibition sponsored by Generali, which continues to insure coal companies in Eastern Europe, in Rome. To be followed!

The Adani mine – a test case for AIG and Lloyd's

In early October AXIS Capital and Canopius withdrew their bids for insuring the railway line of the Adani Group’s proposed Carmichael coal mine in Australia, only days after being put on notice by campaign group Market Forces. Their withdrawal brings the number of insurers and financial institutions which have ruled out supporting the Adani project in some way to 16 and 59, respectively.

With AXIS Capital and Canopius out of the Carmichael project, all eyes are now on AIG and Lloyd’s. AIG is one of the biggest remaining coal insurers, has covered Adani Australia and the site works at the Carmichael mine in the past, and has refused to rule out future support for the project. 

As the example of AXIS and Canopius suggests, the Adani Group and its broker, Marsh, may be increasingly looking to the specialty insurers on the Lloyd’s market for cover. Last month Lloyd’s CEO commented on the question of coal insurance as follows: “We expect every syndicate to have its own guidelines on corporate social responsibility in the lines of business they write. Only in exceptional circumstances will we direct the market not to write a certain kind of business.”

It is incomprehensible that the Lloyd’s CEO doesn’t appear to consider the risk of an unmanageable climate breakdown, which projects like the Carmichael mine are fueling, as an exceptional circumstance. The Corporation will likely come under growing public pressure in the future.

Liberty Mutual campaign launched

On October 8, two year after California’s disastrous Tubbs fire, Rainforest Action Network launched a campaign calling on Liberty Mutual to end insuring coal and tar sands in cooperation with the Insure Our Future and Unfriend Coal campaigns. Liberty Mutual is one of the world’s top coal insurers according to Finaccord and has invested more than $6.6 billion in fossil fuel companies, including $1.5 billion in thermal coal.

As the campaign was launched a California homeowner reported that Liberty Mutual had canceled her policy within two weeks of the Tubbs fire. The homeowner commented: “Liberty Mutual is abandoning its long-time clients after ever increasing climate-related disasters while simultaneously insuring companies in the fossil fuel industry that drive these crises. This company’s hypocrisy is shocking.”

After more than 15 futile requests for a dialogue, RAN plans to target the insurer and its public brand with an escalating series of creative protests.

Loophole of the month: overly long transition periods

A growing number of insurers are phasing out cover not just for coal projects but also for companies depending on coal for more than 30% of their business. While this is welcome some of them will only drop coal companies after an overly long transition period: from 2022 in the case of Chubb, 2023 in the case of AXIS Capital, and 2030 in the case of QBE.

Allowing customers a transition period to meet the 30% threshold can be a meaningful approach but the period should not be longer than two years, as demonstrated by Zurich’s coal exit policy.

Take action

Call on Rugby New Zealand to drop its sponsorship deal with AIG until AIG drops Adani's Carmichael coal mine!

Get in touch!

Exiting the coal sector has become the international norm for responsible insurance companies. Insurance professionals whose employer is lagging behind have good reasons to speak up, and many have contacted the Unfriend Coal campaign for tips and advice. Feel free to contact us if you have information to share or are looking for advice. Confidentiality guaranteed!


Insurance & Climate Risk, London, December 2, 2019 (with launch of the 2019 Unfriend Coal scorecard on insurance, coal and climate change)
New to the monthly Insuring Coal No More newsletter? Subscribe for free here!
Got a news story or campaign action you want us to share? Email Peter Bosshard and we’ll look at including it in our next newsletter. 
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