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Elected Officials, Community Groups Tell Fire Insurers to Ditch Fossil Fuels in Wake of Rate Hikes and Non-Renewals

Elected Officials, Community Groups Tell Fire Insurers to Ditch Fossil Fuels in Wake of Rate Hikes and Non-Renewals

45 California groups and representatives release a letter to Liberty Mutual, AIG, and Farmers Insurance

Oct. 28th, 2019 – As firefighters continue to battle ongoing wildfires, and in the context of massive insurance rate hikes and policy non-renewals across California, 45 groups, businesses, and elected representatives released a letter to the CEOs of Liberty Mutual, AIG, and Farmers. The letter calls on the three biggest fire insurers in California to stop fueling the climate crisis which is creating the conditions for longer wildfire seasons and more destructive fires. It states that the companies must stop insurance coverage for, and investments in, fossil fuel projects and companies. A briefing paper from Insure Our Future details the three companies’ total investments in fossil fuels: Liberty Mutual – $8.9 Billion, AIG – $2.1 Billion, and Farmers – $1.6 Billion.

“My wife and I lost everything in the Paradise fire and after a year, our insurer is still refusing to pay us the money we are owed. When I found out that the same insurance companies that are denying coverage to Californians are providing coverage for fossil fuels, I was simply baffled,” said Tony Dunn, retired fire behavior researcher for the U.S. Forest Service. “The hypocrisy of insurers like Liberty Mutual and AIG is astounding. They are funding climate change while denying the victims of climate change the means to rebuild their lives. Whose side are they on?”

The letter was signed by officials and organizations from many communities hit hard by wildfires in recent years, including the Lake County Community Development Services, the COO of the wine group Boisset Collection, Mikke Pierson (Mayor Pro Tem of Malibu), and affiliate groups of the environmental organization 350.org from Butte, Placer, and Sonoma Counties, and the greater Los Angeles area. It highlights the two ways that these companies are driving the climate crisis: providing insurance for fossil fuel projects and companies, and investing their customers’ premiums in fossil fuels. Without insurance, most fossil fuel projects, like coal plants and oil pipelines, would not be able to operate or be built in the first place.

“A Liberty Mutual spokesperson called withdrawing coverage in wildfire areas ‘just a business decision.’ Apparently, so is investing billions of its customers’ premiums in some of the worst fossil fuel companies on the planet,” said Elana Sulakshana, Energy Finance Campaigner at Rainforest Action Network. “17 global insurance companies, including Chubb and AXIS Capital in the US, have begun to ditch fossil fuels. There is no reason that Liberty Mutual, AIG, and Farmers can’t do the same.”

In the past four years, nearly 350,000 rural homeowners in California have had their coverage dropped, according to the California Department of Insurance, while non-renewals in zip codes affected by the 2015-2017 wildfires jumped by almost 10% in 2018 alone.

“Scientists are telling us that decisive action must be taken to address climate change on an even faster timetable, that we may reach a tipping point by 2030. Although the news is disturbing, we still have time to act. Public pressure to divest from harmful industries has long been an effective strategy to change the course of our history. Join me in advocating for insurance companies to divest from the fossil fuel industry so we can achieve a green energy future,” said Joan Hartmann, 3rd District Supervisor for the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.

Groups and representatives who would like to sign the letter can do so by 5pm PT, November 6th here.


For more information and interviews contact: Myriam Fallon, 708.546.9001, myriam@sunriseproject.net


Briefing paper detailing insurers involvement with fossil fuels: https://bit.ly/31Z0g6g

[Updated 11/11/19] Full letter and list of signers: https://bit.ly/2q2Md2M

All resources, including video on Liberty Mutual, available to download here

Interviews available:

Tony Dunn – Paradise fire victim and retired fire behavior researcher for the U.S. Forest Service

Mikke Pierson – Mayor Pro Tempore, Malibu

Elana Sulakshana – Energy Finance Campaigner at Rainforest Action Network.

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