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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Insurer support for coal plummets

The number of insurance companies that have withdrawn their support for the coal industry has more than doubled this year, the Unfriend Coal campaign has revealed.

Insurers withdraw support for coal ©iStock
Insurers withdraw support for coal ©iStock

In a report published today, the campaign said that almost all major European insurers have adopted coal exit policies, with US companies also now starting to make the shift.

Most have refused to insure new mines and power plants, while some have ended cover for existing projects and the firms that operate them, adopting similar policies for tar sands.

Coal exit strategies have been announced by 17 of the world’s largest insurers, controlling 46% of the reinsurance market and 9.5% of the primary insurance market.

Insurers have also divested around $8.9trn (£6.9trn) from coal – over one-third of the industry’s global assets – with at least 35 companies taking action, up from 15 in 2017.

This comes as global leaders meet in Madrid for the COP 25 climate summit, with coal said to be the single biggest source of carbon emissions contributing to man-made climate change.

“The industry’s retreat from coal is gathering pace as public pressure on the fossil fuel industry and its supporters grows,” said Unfriend Coal coordinator, Peter Bosshard.

“The role of insurers is to manage society’s risks – it is their duty and in their own interest to help avoid climate breakdown.”

The report ranks 30 leading insurers on their action on climate change, assessing their policies on underwriting, divestment and other aspects of climate leadership.

Swiss Re and Zurich top the ranking for underwriting after withdrawing cover for both new and existing coal projects, as well as the companies that operate them.

SCOR, Swiss Re and Zurich lead on divestment, while Legal & General is ahead on other aspects of climate leadership, such as supporting shareholder resolutions calling for climate action.

However, most speciality insurers on the Lloyd’s market have yet to take action, while US firms AIG and Liberty Mutual are the now the biggest international carriers still supporting coal.

Japanese, Chinese and Korean insurers such as Tokio Marine, Sompo, Sinosure and Samsung Fire & Marine continue to play a critical role in insuring coal.

Moreover, the report warns that there are nearly 1,000 coal plants planned that will undermine international climate targets.

"Major US and Asian insurers continue to undermine international climate action by insuring and investing in coal projects," Bosshard continued.

"All responsible companies must make coal uninsurable by ending support for new and existing mines and power plants, including the Adani Group’s destructive Carmichael coal mine in Australia.”

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