Aviva faces mounting pressure from campaign group

Major insurer urged to follow in the footsteps of rivals as the heat is turned up on day of its AGM

Aviva faces mounting pressure from campaign group

Insurance News

By Lucy Hook

Insurer Aviva has been accused by campaigners today of investing hundreds of millions in companies developing new coal projects and operating in the tar sands industry – a move they say is “at odds” with the firm’s support of the Paris Climate Agreement.

On the day of the insurer’s annual general meeting, the Unfriend Coal campaign said that Aviva’s policy of driving change through engagement had resulted in “no meaningful successes,” adding that, as of November 2017, the firm was financing developers planning to build 90GW of new coal power. According to the group, the insurance giant has more than £920 million invested in companies developing new coal projects and operating in the tar sands industry.

The move comes just a week after the Paris City Council called out several European insurers for their support of the coal industry in Europe – which led to Allianz further pulling away from the sector.

“We would like to see Aviva following what other insurers such as AXA and Allianz have done, and complementing its engagement approach with a consequential divestment approach,” Lucie Pinson, European coordinator of the Unfriend Coal campaign, told Insurance Business.

“It’s critical to prevent the development of new coal and tar sands projects, and Aviva should automatically divest from companies still planning new carbon-intensive projects,” Pinson continued.

“Aviva should also acknowledge it cannot effectively engage with all the coal companies it is exposed to, and focus its engagement only on a small number of fossil fuel companies, which have proved their will and capacity to align their activities with Paris climate targets.”

Unfriend Coal said that when Aviva began engaging with 40 coal companies in 2015, it asked the firms whether they had any plans for new investment in coal-generating capacity, and highlighted that any such endeavour would go against its approach to helping meet the Paris Agreement of limiting global temperature rise to below two degrees Celsius.

In September 2017, the insurer added two companies to its investment stop-list – Japanese Utility J-Power and Poland’s PGE, and said it had divested its active beneficial holdings “wherever possible,” according to the campaign group. Aviva is also reported to be in the process of divesting £11 million from 15 more companies. 

However, Unfriend Coal said that in November 2017, the insurer was the second biggest investor in PGE with £146 million of shares, including £90 million through its Polish pension fund OFE. The group described PGE as Europe’s second biggest CO2 emitter and the continent’s largest coal power developer, with plans to build 5.2GW of new coal plants.


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