Another year of intense flooding, hurricanes, and wildfires has shown yet again that climate change is already here, and we are vastly unprepared. The insurance industry is no exception. Despite being particularly vulnerable to climate change, insurers have resisted addressing the risks they face. A 2020 survey of insurance executives found that 75% believed their companies were exposed to risk from climate change and that they were underprepared for them.
What many people don’t realize is that the insurance industry also contributes to climate change in two key ways:
Underwriting: Insurance carriers, including AIG, are providing the coverage to build and operate polluting, carbon-intensive projects like coal plants, gas pipelines, and tar sands mines. Once built, this infrastructure locks us into dirty, expensive energy that accelerates climate change, harms public health, and in many cases, violates Indigenous land rights.
Investments: Insurance companies are big institutional investors, investing client premiums into various assets, including fossil fuel companies. As of 2019, the U.S. insurance industry had $582 billion invested in coal, oil, and gas utilities and other fossil fuel activities—an increase of $63 billion from 2018.
The findings from the UN’s latest report on climate science show that we have limited time left to avoid the most dire impacts of the climate crisis. Taking climate science seriously means understanding that insuring and investing in greenhouse gas emissions is actually contributing to the climate crisis. When insurance companies provide coverage for new and existing sources of emissions, they increase the likelihood and magnitude of climate impacts. The insurance industry has a unique opportunity to accelerate the global transition away from fossil fuels. Rather than provide a lifeline to this climate-wrecking sector, insurers could rapidly phase out their financial support for it.
We are asking insurance professionals across the industry to call on insurers to stop enabling climate harm and start insuring our future. Will you join us?
Unfortunately, AIG is a significant contributor to the problem. Here’s what you should know:
AIG is a top three underwriter of oil and gas projects and companies worldwide.
AIG is one of few global insurers willing and able to conduct due diligence for multi-billion-dollar coal projects.
AIG has underwritten the Trans Mountain tar sands oil pipeline in Canada, which is strongly opposed by Indigenous Peoples and environmentalists. AIG won’t disclose whether it’s still insuring the project, and won’t rule out insuring it despite the climate and public health impacts.
AIG’s corporate investments in fossil fuels total nearly $27 billion, according to the latest publicly available data from the California Department of Insurance.
AIG recommitted to supporting fossil fuels in its 2020 ESG Report.
There are two clear steps that AIG and any energy underwriter should take to align its business with the Paris Climate Accord and the recommendations from the global scientific community:
Stop underwriting coal, oil, and gas projects and companies.
Divest from fossil fuel companies.
AIG is a notable sustainability laggard in the insurance industry at present: it has no policies to phase out its underwriting and investment support of the fossil fuel industry. If AIG adopted such a policy, it would be joining 30 of its peers around the world—including industry leaders like Lloyd’s of London, SwissRe, and Allianz, AXA, MunichRe, and Zurich—that have already taken first steps to restrict fossil fuel underwriting and investments.
Companies are facing more and more pressure to act on their employees’ social and environmental concerns. In the words of Kasper Hulthin, co-founder of employee feedback firm Peakon: “Companies need to be receptive because employees are increasingly taking jobs based on whether their personal values align with those of their employer.” As an insurance industry employee, you have several key opportunities to encourage your company to become a climate leader:
The insurance industry needs to recruit and retain talent. The U.S. insurance industry is facing a recruitment challenge, as an estimated 50% of its current workforce will retire by 2028. And the industry is struggling to appeal to the younger potential employees that it badly needs. Current employees can push their employers to address climate change by expressing dissatisfaction with weak or nonexistent climate policies.
Insurance professionals are already speaking out about the need for the industry to do more to address climate change. There is a growing group of insurance professionals who are raising their voices, across different types of positions, seniority, and companies in the industry. Some are organizing their colleagues in their workplaces, and others are publicly sharing their perspectives. You can read opinion pieces on this topic from a current employee, a former employee, and a risk management student.
Want to learn more and get involved in the movement? Sign the petition below or contact Hannah Saggau at [email protected] — all conversations are confidential.