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Insuring Coal No More

The Unfriend Coal campaign calls 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.

New report scores insurers on coal and climate

The momentum of insurers shifting away from coal is growing, the newly released 2018 Scorecard on Insurance, Coal and Climate Change finds. The Unfriend Coal report reveals that Europe’s four biggest primary insurers have now restricted insurance for coal, one third of the reinsurance market has done the same, and 19 major insurers with more than $6 trillion in assets have divested from coal.

The report ranks 24 of the world’s biggest insurers on their action on coal and climate change, scoring their policies on underwriting, divestment and other aspects of climate leadership. It is based on responses to a questionnaire from 18 companies, including all European and Asia-Pacific insurers, and on publicly available information.

Swiss Re ranks highest for the most comprehensive policies on both coal insurance and divestment (see the table below). The reinsurer has divested from companies relying on coal for more than 30% of their mining income or power generation, and no longer offers them insurance cover. The policy applies to existing and new projects and across all lines of business worldwide. Swiss Re’s underwriting and divestment policies also cover tar sands and other extreme fossil fuels.

While most of the leading European insurers have by now taken action on coal, none of the nine US insurers assessed have taken any steps. Companies like AIG, Chubb, Liberty Mutual and Berkshire Hathaway continue to underwrite and invest in the leading source of carbon emissions.

Asia-Pacific insurers also continue to insure and invest in coal, although there are the first signs of change. Three of Japan’s largest life insurance companies have announced they will no longer fund new coal projects, and Australia’s QBE is currently reviewing its coal underwriting and investment policies.

However, the new report finds that even the coal exit policies of European insurers still contain large loopholes. Some fail to cover leading coal developers because their definition of coal companies is exceedingly narrow. Others do not apply to certain types of insurance or only restrict certain coal projects. Most divestment policies do not apply to assets insurers manage on behalf of third parties – more than $1 trillion in the case of Allianz.

Australia's proposed Carmichael coal mine test case for future insurance action

After years of controversy, India’s Adani Mining announced on November 29 that it would self-finance the huge Carmichael coal mine project in Australia. Even at its reduced scope, the mine will produce up to 28 million tons of coal per year if built. The project will not just fuel climate change but will also severely impact the Great Barrier Reef, through which its coal will be exported.

Dozens of banks will no longer finance coal mines, or have ruled out funding for the Carmichael project in particular. Under the terms of their policies none of the seven leading insurers which have adopted coal policies could touch the project. In 2015, Aviva warned that getting involved in the proposed mine would carry “grave reputational risks”.

NGOs active in the Unfriend Coal campaign will call on insurers around the world not to underwrite the Carmichael project. They will in particular monitor the role of climate laggards with large mining exposure such as AIG, Berkshire Hathaway, Chubb, Hannover Re, HDI and Liberty Mutual. The Carmichael mine will become the next prominent test case for insurers’ response to climate change.

Insurers' support for coal poisons air at COP24

Updating an earlier research effort, the Unfriend Coal has identified at least 33 insurance contracts worth close to $300 million signed since 2013 to underwrite coal mines and power plants in Poland. Talanx subsidiary Tuir Warta and Munich Re subsidiary Ergo Hestia have each insured 17, Polish insurer PZU has insured 16, and Allianz and Generali 13 contracts each during this period.

While Allianz, Munich Re and Generali have meanwhile adopted policies that would exclude them from underwriting new Polish coal projects, Germany’s Talanx, Austrian insurers Vienna Insurance Group and UNIQA, and Poland’s PZU are still supporting an industry which plans to build more than 7GW of new coal power in the country. None of these insurers ruled out underwriting Poland’s controversial proposed Ostroleka C power plant.

“Delegates to COP24 should remember that coal companies are only able to poison the air and undermine climate targets because insurers like Talanx, VIG, UNIQA and PZU are willing to underwrite their activities”, commented Unfriend Coal’s European coordinator Lucie Pinson.

Upcoming events

Shutting Down Finance & Insurance for Fossil Fuels at COP24 Climate Hub; organized by Urgewald, BankTrack and the Unfriend Coal campaign; Katowice, 12/6/2018, 12:00 pm-1:20 pm

Insuring Coal No More: Unfriend Coal media conference at COP24, ICC Katowice, 12/6/2018, 12:30 pm

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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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