Generali, Europe’s third largest insurer, is holding its annual general meeting today as groups backing the Unfriend Coal campaign reiterate their stand against the support – through insurance and investments – for coal.
In the case of the Italian insurer, NGOs are slamming its involvement in the coal industry in Poland. Petitions signed by over 100,000 people and organised by WeMove.EU, Greenpeace Italy, and Akcja Demokracja are urging the insurer to stop supporting what Unfriend Coal describes as the biggest single source of carbon emissions.
Greenpeace Czech Republic’s Jan Rovenský had some pretty strong words for Generali ahead of its AGM.
“Generali is financing the destruction of human lives and the natural environment in Central Europe,” said Rovenský. “Coal companies and utilities in the Czech Republic and Poland like PGE and ČEZ are responsible for horrible things. Approximately two thousand people die prematurely each year because of air pollution caused by Czech lignite power plants alone.
“Nothing of this could happen if Generali and other insurers didn’t support the dirty coal business.”
For Alessandro Runci, of Italian NGO Re:Common, it’s a matter of making a choice.
“Each time Generali insures a coal plant or mine, it is supporting those who are burning our chances to avoid catastrophic climate change,” said Runci. “It is time for the Lion of Trieste to take a stand and decide what is more important: short-term profits or the future of our planet.”
An initiative from international civil society organisations to hold insurers to account for both their action and inaction on climate change, the Unfriend Coal campaign wants an end to all cover for coal plants, mines, and associated infrastructure projects.
Meanwhile Generali, for its part, believes the vision outlined in its new climate change strategy is in line with the principles of the Paris Pledge for Action defined under COP 21. However, at the same time the insurer said it recognises that access to energy is a priority for states and citizens.
“In Poland, the economy and employment depend to a high extent on the coal sector,” Generali told Insurance Business in March. “Therefore Generali wants to support the implementation of the strategy of a transition to activities with low negative impact on the environment. As a corporation, our role is to facilitate the transformation while respecting the political choices of local governments and citizens, creating opportunities for constructive dialogue.”