Insurance industry Gets Smart, backs away from fossil fuels.

Where will the rich go to play when the Mediterranean is gone? My place is beautiful, but I have no safe water after Encana/Cenovus illegally frac’d my community’s aquifers, and compressor noise and weeds invade on.


Severe heatwaves and longer dry seasons caused by climate change have created the conditions for the deadly wildfires that are scorching Greece, Turkey, Italy, and other Mediterranean countries.

After experiencing the most severe heatwave in decades, Mediterranean countries like Greece, Turkey, Italy, Algeria, Morocco, and Spain have been in the midst of a wave of destructive and deadly wildfires that have displaced thousands of residents and scorched the landscape. Scientists say there’s little doubt that the scope, severity, and regularity of these wildfires are linked to man-made climate change, and the Mediterranean region itself has been designated a “climate change hotspot.” TRNN Editor-in-Chief Maximillian Alvarez talks with Theodota Nantsou in Athens about the toll the fires have taken on Greece, the national and international efforts to contain them, and the bleak future that awaits if we don’t dramatically address the root causes of climate change. …

As climate threat climbs, insurance industry backs away from fossil fuels by Amanda Stephenson, The Canadian Press, Aug 22, 2021, The Globe and Mail

“This was not an issue that was central in the insurance sector, even 7 years ago,” said Robin Edger, national director of climate change for the Insurance Bureau of Canada. “But now it is moving at light speed.”

In the past three years, 23 major global insurance companies have adopted policies that end or limit insurance for the coal industry, and nine insurers have ended or limited insurance for the Canadian oilsands.

Other insurance companies are making changes on the asset side of their books, divesting fossil fuel investments and adding green energy to their investment portfolios. In July, eight of the world’s largest insurance companies — including Swiss Re, Zurich Insurance Group and Aviva — committed to transitioning their portfolios to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The “sustainable finance” movement — which seeks to use the power of investment capital to move toward a lower-carbon economy — also includes pension funds, banks, and mutual funds. But not our stupid and arrogant CPPIB. But of all the institutional investors, insurance companies have perhaps the most on the line when it comes to climate change.

According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, the average annual cost of claims for property damage or losses due to severe weather has more than quadrupled over the last decade to $2.4 billion in 2020. That figure is expected to keep growing. An alarming report from the United Nations earlier this month said the world will cross the 1.5-degree-Celsius warming mark in the 2030s, resulting in more floods, fires and heat waves.

On the hook for more payouts amid ever-escalating risk, the global insurance industry has been lobbying for years for governments to take more action on climate change. But it is only recently that insurers have begun taking a critical look at their own investments in fossil fuel companies.

In Europe — where the disclosure of fossil fuel investments is mandatory for public companies — insurers are moving faster than their North American counterparts, said Victor Adesanya, lead author of a recent DBRS Morningstar report on the topic.

But even in the U.S. and Canada, where the disclosure of fossil fuel holdings is not required, the issue is gaining momentum, Adesanya said. Manulife Financial, for example, has committed to assessing its own $411-billion portfolio with the goal of getting to net-zero by 2050. Decades too late.

“For them (North American insurers) to just turn off the taps and stop investing right away, I don’t see that happening,” Adesanya said. “But there’s a trend that has started, and it will begin to ramp up.”

Environmental groups are also increasingly putting pressure on the insurance industry, demanding that they stop underwriting coal mines, coal-fired power plants, and other fossil fuel projects. They have had some success — a handful of global insurers stated publicly this year they would not provide coverage to the TransMountain pipeline expansion.

“To me it illustrates a real shift in the sector,” said Mary Lovell, who leads insurance campaigns for the San Francisco-based environmental group Rainforest Action Network. “These insurers understand the reputational risk of being involved with a project as contentious as TransMountain, as well as the material risk of constructing a new pipeline during a climate crisis.”

Edger, with the Insurance Bureau of Canada, said the industry will be closely watching the COP 26 UN Climate Summit in Glasgow in November, where the issue of sustainable finance is expected to be a major topic.

Cartoon by Michael de Adder, Aug 23, 2021


WASHINGTON (March 25, 2021)–A letter spearheaded by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) asks AIG, Berkshire Hathaway, Chubb, Liberty Mutual, Travelers and other US insurers to explain how their fossil fuel underwriting and investment policies align with their sustainability commitments. The letter was also signed by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). The letter was first reported in Politico Pro

The letter represents the first time U.S. senators have publicly called on the U.S. insurance industry to account for its role in the climate crisis. AIG, Chubb, Liberty Mutual and Travelers  are among the top insurers of fossil fuels worldwide, enabling the construction of new coal mines and oil pipelines.

“An increasing number of your competitors have stopped underwriting coal and other fossil fuel projects and/or restricted their investments in coal and certain dirty and environmentally damaging oil and gas projects such as tar sands,” the letter reads. 

To date, at least 26 insurance companies globally have ended or limited their coverage for coal projects. As a result, coal projects face rate increases of up to 40% and struggle to find insurance, but U.S. insurers continue to provide a lifeline to the industry. 

“As U.S. insurers fall further behind, it’s good to see U.S. senators calling them out for their failures and pressuring them to act,” said David Arkush, director of Public Citizen’s Climate Program. “Reading between the lines, the letter asks why they aren’t taking climate more seriously. There’s no good answer.”

The letter also notes the significant financial risks climate change poses to insurance companies’ financial viability, including through rising sea levels and coastal storms, more frequent and intense wildfires, and droughts and heatwaves. Worldwide, natural disasters caused $82 billion in insured losses in 2020. 

The letter follows comments from Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard earlier this week highlighting the risk that climate harms could spark a financial crisis rooted in the property and casualty insurance sector, as insurers abruptly raise prices and decline to renew policies.

“Unlike their global competitors, U.S. insurers plan to keep fueling the climate crisis, then dump their customers when the fires come too close to home,” said Ross Hammond from the Insure Our Future campaign. “Their recklessness puts the lie to claims that they’re experts at managing risk, they’re environmental stewards, or even that they value their customers.”

Senator Whitehouse has long been a champion of reducing dependence on fossil fuels. He and his colleagues join a growing chorus of voices calling on the U.S. insurance industry to use its power to hasten the shift to renewables, including businesses, municipalities, Indigenous Peoples, and NGOs.


Insure Our Future is a U.S. campaign comprising environmental, consumer protection, and grassroots organizations holding the U.S. insurance industry accountable for its role in the climate crisis. It is part of the global Insure Our Future campaign, which promotes a rapid shift of the insurance industry from supporting and financing fossil fuels to accelerating the transition to a clean energy economy.

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