International non-governmental organizations supporting the Unfriend Coal campaign have urged insurers to champion a green recovery from the COVID-19 outbreak.
In a letter to insurance industry associations, 25 NGOs from 11 countries said that the industry was fully aware of the risks of global pandemics years ago, but did not do enough to ensure governments prepared effectively. The NGOs warned the industry not to make the same mistake now that they recognize the climate emergency.
In a 2013 Towers Watson survey, insurance executives identified a “new, highly infections and fatal pandemic” as the world’s greatest potential threat. In a 2019 Willis Towers Watson survey, insurers identified climate change as the greatest threat.
The letter called on insurers to address the COVID-19 and climate crises together by working to ensure that economic stimulus plans are consistent with limiting climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius, in line with the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recommendations.
“International insurance associations and many of their member bodies have made numerous commitments about the need for rapid climate action,” the letter said. “If you are serious about these commitments you now need to speak out, vigorously and publicly, at the international and national level for green and fair recovery programs which are consistent with the IPCC’s 1.5°C pathways.”
The NGOs also said that the insurance industry “has to get its own house in order with regard to the climate crisis.”
“Insurance associations should encourage their member companies to divest from fossil fuel companies, to end cover for coal projects, coal companies and for oil and gas expansion projects, and to commit to phasing out cover for oil and gas companies in line with a 1.5°C pathway,” the letter said.
“The role of insurers is to identify and manage risks for society,” said Peter Bosshard, coordinator of the Unfriend Coal campaign. “Seven years ago they recognized the threat of a global pandemic, but failed to ensure the world was prepared and simply excluded pandemic risks from their policies. Now that they acknowledge climate change is our greatest threat, they must not repeat this mistake. Insurers have a duty to speak out loud and clear for strong climate action and set an example by aligning their businesses with international climate targets.”