Revealed - which top insurers are aiming for net-zero but still heavily investing in fossil fuels?

Some of Canada's biggest insurance names still have billions invested in fossil fuels

Revealed - which top insurers are aiming for net-zero but still heavily investing in fossil fuels?

Insurance News

By Lyle Adriano

Sun Life and Manulife – two of Canada’s biggest insurers for life and health – have made commitments to reach net-zero, but a new report reveals that they must walk the talk for they still have billions of dollars invested in fossil fuels.

Canada’s National Observer obtained data which found that as of June 2022, Sun Life’s fossil fuel investments sat at around US$15.9 billion. Meanwhile, Manulife still had about US$ $9.9 billion in coal, gas, and oil investments. This data was based on two lists: the Global Coal Exit List and the Global Oil and Gas Exit List.

The two insurers happen to be Canada’s biggest investors, with a combined $3 trillion in assets under management – an amount easily greater than Canada’s largest banks. But while the two have promised to transition to net-zero by 2050, it was found that Sun Life and Manulife doubled down on coal by investing more in fossil fuels this year than last.

According to data, Sun Life holds US$13.5 billion worth of investments in coal as of June, which is a 14% increase from 2021. Manulife similarly had $5.5 billion worth of coal investments as of June, up 6% from 2021.

It was noted that the two have invested $2.5 billion (Sun Life) and $676 million (Manulife) into the US power company Duke Energy, which had reported using coal for 27% of its power generation.

The fossil fuels financing of the two insurers also has a major impact on greenhouse gas emissions, researchers found. A report conducted by research firm Profundo and commissioned by Investors for Paris Compliance found that Sun Life is responsible for at least 121 million tonnes of greenhouse gas, based on corporate filings. For its part, Manulife financed at least 77 million tonnes. For both insurers, fossil fuels were the sector that was responsible for the most emissions.

By contributing indirectly to emissions, the insurers are also impacting the health of the very consumers they serve. Citing estimates from the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices, Canada’s National Observer said that the financial cost of heat- and ozone-related deaths range from $5.2 billion to $8.5 billion for heat-related deaths, and $87 billion and $246 billion for ozone-related deaths.

“There is a clear tension between the core mission of life and health insurance companies and their fossil fuel investments,” the institute said. “Unless this tension is addressed in favour of rapid decarbonization, their core business will face increasing challenges as the climate crisis drives up risk and causes widespread adverse health outcomes.”

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