Fossil Fuels & Insurance

Why Insurers Need to Ditch FOSSIL FUELS

Coal, oil and gas produce more than 80 percent of all climate-destroying CO2 emissions. Fossil fuels are also one of the primary sources of air and water pollution, which kills an estimated 9 million people every year.

Our future well being depends on the rapid, global phase-out of coal, oil and gas. 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 fossil fuel projects and need to rapidly reduce coal, oil and gas consumption.

In sharp contrast to the required shift, hundreds of new fossil fuel projects are currently under construction or in the pipeline. If completed these projects would make it impossible to avoid an unmanageable climate breakdown.

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, oil pipelines and power plants can be built, and most existing projects will have to be phased out.

With assets of approximately $30 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 fossil fuel 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, oil and gas projects and companies;
  • Divest from the fossil fuel industry;
  • Insure and invest in the low-carbon economy;
  • Bring all their business activities, including as shareholders and corporate lobbyists, in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Coal becoming uninsurable

By May 2020, 19 insurers had adopted policies restricting their coverage of the coal sector, and seven had restricted their cover of tar sands projects. At least 40 insurers, with combined assets of about $9 trillion, had divested from coal and other fossil fuels. 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 12 of the 19 policies were adopted in 2019, including by two Australian and four US insurers. To make fossil fuels uninsurable for good, we must close the existing coal loopholes, expand the exclusions to oil and gas, and push other insurers to join the trend!

Latest Reports

The 2019 Scorecard on Insurance, Coal and Climate Change

Insurers withdrawing cover from coal projects double in 2019

The 2018 Scorecard on Insurance, Coal and Climate Change

Unprecedented insurance action puts coal under pressure

Coal reinsurance briefing

Reinsurers’ policy loopholes keep coal industry afloat

Home Hero Background

Tar sands insurance briefing

Leading insurers undermine climate goals by supporting the tar sands industry

Aviva's investments in coal

Funding for developers planning 90GW of new coal power at odds with insurer’s climate commitments

Case study on insurance support for Polish coal projects

Major European insurers are backing the growth of Poland’s coal industry, supporting companies which are undermining international efforts to combat climate change and causing thousands of early deaths a year across the continent, reveals a briefing from the Unfriend Coal campaign published today.

2017 Scorecard on insurance, coal and climate change

Leading insurance companies have pulled $20 billion out of investments in coal and a growing number are refusing to underwrite new coal projects, reveals a new scorecard on the industry from the Unfriend Coal campaign.

Coal insurance briefing paper

Insurance companies have warned about climate change since the 1970s, but continue to enable coal projects by insuring them and investing them. Read this briefing paper about the role insurers play in propping up a climate-destroying industry.

Profundo report on fossil fuel investments

Leading European investors have invested at least $130 billion in fossil fuels and continue to insure and enable coal projects. This is the main finding of a new report published by the research firm Profundo.

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