The world’s 23rd-largest insurance company, Zurich Insurance Group, has become the world’s first to withdraw insurance and investment from companies significantly involved with the tar sands/oil sands, including pipelines and railways, as well as coal developers, utilities, and oil shale developers.
Zurich’s new fossil fuel policy sets a two-year deadline for it to withdraw underwriting or investment from companies that derive more than 30% of their revenue from coal or oil shale mining, coal- or shale-fired electricity, or tar sands/oil sands extraction, produce more than 20 million tonnes of thermal coal per year, are developing new coal mines or generation infrastructure, or run purpose-built pipelines or rail lines for tar sands/oil sands products, Insure Our Future reports.
In its own release, Zurich says it will be the first insurer to sign the Business Ambition for 1.5°C Pledge via the UN Global Compact. “Over a 24-month period, Zurich will proactively engage with clients and investee companies with the aim to assist them in adopting plans to reduce their exposure to thermal coal, oil sands, and oil shales,” the company states. As well, “Zurich has committed to utilize 100% renewable power in all global operations by the end of 2022.”
“Zurich was one of the first insurers to move away from fossil fuels in 2017, but its previous policy used a weaker 50% revenue threshold,” Insure Our Future says in a release. “Since then, several other European insurers, and numerous asset owners and banks, have moved beyond these coal exclusion criteria and introduced lower limits. With its updated policy, Zurich is the first major global insurer to apply such criteria to insurance coverage as well as investments. Similarly, for tar sands, while AXA has committed to divest from the sector and end its coverage of new tar sands projects, Zurich is going a step further with restrictions at the corporate level, as well. Zurich is the first primary insurer to plan restrictions on the shale oil sector.”
“We are pleased to see a global insurance company acknowledging the destructive nature of the tar sands industry by committing to stop insuring both tar sands companies and the companies that threaten Indigenous lands and people with tar sands pipelines and railways,” said Dallas Goldtooth, Keep it in the Ground Campaign Organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network. “Indigenous resistance to tar sands in North America has proven to be an imposing force and shows no sign of stopping. We are calling on all insurance companies to stop supporting the tar sands industry.”
“With Zurich’s announcement today, it is clear that U.S. insurance companies like Liberty Mutual, Chubb, and AIG need to follow the lead of their European counterparts and commit to not insuring or investing in fossil fuels,” said Greenpeace US Executive Director Annie Leonard. “The insurance industry, like all of us, is directly impacted by climate change as we see more and more extreme weather events around the globe. These companies can become part of the solution by walking away from coal and tar sands altogether.”