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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Insurance giants continue to support growth of Polish coal industry

Major European insurance firms continue to facilitate dangerous climate change and lethal air pollution levels by underwriting new coal plants in Poland.

Insurers damaging their reputations by investing in coal / istock
Insurers damaging their reputations by investing in coal ©iStock

A new report published today by the Unfriend Coal campaign reveals that insurers have invested €1.3bn (£1.15bn) in Polish coal companies since 2013, and signed at least 21 contracts underwriting coal projects.

Munich Re and Allianz are two of the biggest culprits, supporting an industry linked with 10,520 premature deaths every year, with the latter providing insurance for the biggest coal plant currently under construction in Europe.

“Insurers backing Polish coal are putting themselves on the wrong side of the fight against dangerous climate change, and risking their shareholders’ money,” report author, Lucie Pinson, said.

“There can be no excuse supporting new coal mines and power plants, and insurers should withdraw cover and investment from existing projects as soon as possible.”

Research by NGOs supporting the Unfriend Coal campaign shows that the biggest underwriter of Polish coal is Munich Re’s Ergo Hestia, which has insured 12 projects over the last five years.

Allianz is the next biggest, underwriting nine projects, followed by Generali, Talanx’s subsidiary Tuir Warta, and PZU, which have insured eight, seven and six respectively.

The report also reveals that Aegon, Allianz, Aviva, Nationale Nederlanden, AXA and Generali collectively own 8.6% of PGE, Poland’s biggest energy company, which has plans to develop 5GW of new coal power.

Despite this, a growing number of insurers are turning against coal, with AXA, Zurich and SCOR all announcing restrictions on underwriting last year, while Swiss Re are expected to announce a similar policy in the coming months.

Allianz was one of the first insurers to divest from coal, but its policy does not cover the $1trn of funds it manages for third parties. Munich Re has taken limited action, while Generali has done nothing.

“Polish coal companies are defying global efforts to combat climate change with their aggressive growth plans,” Kuba Gogolewski, from the Polish NGO foundation Development Yes Open-Pit Mines NO, said.

“Companies which insure and finance them have no place to hide and must take action now if they wish to preserve their reputation.”

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