Insurance companies are supposed to protect us from catastrophic risks. Yet when it comes to the largest threat to humanity – climate change – U.S. insurers are fueling dangerous global warming by perpetuating our dependence on dirty fossil fuels. At the same time, climate-related disasters are having a huge impact on these companies’ balance sheets in the form of payouts from record wildfires and hurricanes.
Fortunately there is some good news. People are getting wise to the industry’s hypocrisy and are pressuring insurers to ditch fossil fuels. A new report from the Unfriend Coal campaign shows that a number of the world’s largest insurance companies are taking unprecedented action to stop dirty coal energy, ending insurance for coal companies, mines and power plants, and excluding coal from $6 trillion of investments.
The bad news: as these international insurers exit coal and tar sands, U.S. insurers continue to provide a lifeline to dying fossil fuels. Of the nine U.S. insurance companies surveyed in the report, not one has made moves to end its support of fossil fuels.
Everyone knows that you can’t drive a car or buy a house without insurance. Likewise, without insurance, energy companies cannot build or operate destructive fossil fuel projects like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking wells, oil drilling in the arctic, or coal-fired power plants.
Insurers were among the earliest voices warning about the risk of runaway climate change, yet, decades later, they are failing to act. Quite the opposite: U.S. insurers are accelerating a dangerous future they are meant to project us against.
More diabolical yet, as extreme weather is becoming more frequent and severe, U.S. insurers like AIG, Chubb and Liberty Mutual are abandoning customers who live in the path of climate impacts. Insurers have increased premiums or withdrawn coverage from the regions most at risk to natural disasters, such as the coast of Florida or the wildfire-affected counties in California. Apparently, insurers would rather insure climate change than insure you against its impacts.
There are some bright spots in the United States. Cities like San Francisco are telling insurance partners to ditch dirty fossil fuels or the local leaders will take their business elsewhere. And the online insurance company Lemonade became the first U.S. insurers to commit to never invest in or insure fossil fuels and is urging other insurers to follow suit.
Over the coming year, the Insure Our Future campaign will turn up the heat on U.S. insurers and demand they stop making climate change worse. Already colorful protests featuring insurance industry mascots have begun to turn up at major U.S. insurance industry gatherings. With increasing natural disasters driving more and more attention to the role the insurance industry plays in a climate changed world, we’ll be drawing even more unwanted attention and pressure to an industry in desperate need of change.