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Unfriend Coal campaign to increase pressure on Asian and North American coal insurers

Published by , Assistant Editor
World Coal,

NGOs supporting the Unfriend Coal campaign have warned insurance CEOs that they would increase public pressure on companies that do not back global climate targets, and would extend their scrutiny of Asian and North American companies.

They called on the CEOs of 30 global insurers to protect their customers from dangerous climate change by ending their support for the coal industry and supporting action to limit global warming to 1.5°C, in an open letter ahead of the industry AGM season.

“We will not hesitate to increase public pressure on companies which are not prepared to engage in this transition or undermine the progress other companies have made,” said the letter, signed by 15 NGOs from four continents.

Unfriend Coal produces an annual scorecard assessing the world’s biggest insurers’ policies on coal and climate, and this year it is expanding the list from 24 to 30 including insurers from China and Korea for the first time. The six new companies are: Ping An and Sinosure (China); Samsung Fire & Marine (Korea); MS&AD (Japan); FM Global (US); and HDI (Germany). The only Asian insurers the campaign has assessed up to now are Japan’s Sompo and Tokio Marine.

Peter Bosshard, coordinator of the Unfriend Coal campaign, said: “76% of the coal power projects still in the pipeline are being developed in Asia, and many of them are supported by insurers from China, Japan and Korea. Asian insurers need to reposition themselves for a low-carbon future and stop insuring coal projects now.”


The letter calls on CEOs to take immediate action to: stop insuring coal and tar sands projects and companies; start divesting from these companies; align all business activities with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C; and bring stewardship activities in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The UN’s International Panel on Climate Change found that limiting global warming to 1.5°C will require a ‘steep reduction’ in the use of coal, the biggest single source of CO2 emissions. In its central scenario burning of coal will need to be cut by 75% from 2010 levels by 2030 and by 98 -100% by 2050.


Insurers are uniquely placed to support this transition. If they cease to cover coal projects new mines and power plants cannot be built and existing ones will have to close down. They also manage US$31 trillion of assets and by shifting investments from coal to clean energy they can accelerate the shift to a low-carbon economy.

Since the Unfriend Coal campaign launched two years ago 13 major insurers, including the world’s largest primary and reinsurers, have adopted policies to end or limit insurance for the coal industry. In addition, more than 20 major insurers have divested from coal.

However, no US and Asian insurers have taken action on coal and the policies of several major European companies have major loopholes.

Lucie Pinson, European Coordinator of the Unfriend Coal Campaign, said: “While European insurers have been the first to stop insuring new coal projects, many of their policies – including those of Munich Re, Hannover Re, SCOR and Generali – contain large loopholes, and the insurers on the Lloyd's market have not made any commitments to end coal insurance at all. As the world is running out of time to prevent a climate collapse, we will keep up the pressure in Europe until these gaps are closed.”

Climate change is now affecting insurance companies’ customers and their own businesses. Insurers’ losses from natural catastrophes reached US$140 billion and US$80 billion in 2017 and 2018 respectively, significantly more than the (inflation-adjusted) 30 year average of US$41 billion. Munich Re recently warned that climate change could make insurance cover unaffordable for ordinary people.

This month, the Bank of England became the first regulator in the world to publish supervisory expectations that set out how banks and insurance companies need to develop an enhanced approach to managing the financial risks from climate change. As part of scheduled stress tests, UK insurers will be asked to consider how issues such as extreme weather events could affect their balance sheets.

The Unfriend Coal letter is addressed to the CEOs of 25 leading property & casualty insurers and five leading insurance investors, including thirteen in Europe (Allianz, AXA, Aviva, Generali, Hannover Re, HDI Global, Liberty Mutual, Lloyd’s, Mapfre, Munich Re, SCOR, Swiss Re and Zurich), ten in the US (AIG, Axis Capital, Berkshire Hathaway, Chubb, FM Global, Liberty Mutual, MetLife, Prudential, TIAA and WR Berkley), six in Asia (MS&AD, Ping An, Samsung Fire & Marine, Sinosure, Sompo and Tokio Marine) and one in Australia (QBE).

It was endorsed by, Consumer Watchdog (US), Divest Invest, the Foundation Development YES - Open-Pit Mines NO (Poland), Friends of the Earth France, Greenpeace, the Japan Center for a Sustainable Environment and Society, Market Forces (Australia), Oil Change International, Rainforest Action Network (US), Re:Common (Italy), the Sierra Club (US), Solutions For Our Climate (Korea), the Sunrise Project (Australia) and Urgewald (Germany).

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