Unfriend Coal campaign lays into AXA's 'aborted ambition'

Unfriend Coal campaign lays into AXA's 'aborted ambition' | Insurance Business

Unfriend Coal campaign lays into AXA

“More than outdated and difficult to justify” – that is how the Unfriend Coal campaign described AXA’s coal policy in a new report released jointly with BankTrack.

Published in partnership with Les Amis de la Terre France, the Exiting coal: Is the French financial industry on its way? report highlights the Paris Financial Centre’s commitment to adopting a timetable for total disengagement from the coal sector, and looks at where industry players such as AXA currently stand in respect of the goal.

Other firms featured in the document seen by Insurance Business are Société Générale, BNP Paribas, and Crédit Agricole. 

In discussing AXA’s coal journey, the report’s author – Unfriend Coal campaign coordinator Lucie Pinson – pointed to the insurance group’s “aborted ambition” and cited how the French insurer’s anti-coal efforts have been surpassed by those of its peers.

“AXA is recognised as the first major investor to adopt a coal policy that not only excludes companies based on the share of coal in their activities,” wrote Pinson.

“Applying a 30% threshold, AXA added in 2017 the exclusion of companies which produce more than 20 million tonnes of coal per year and those that plan to produce more than 3 gigawatts of new coal-fired power generation capacity. This first step, very welcome at the time, was very quickly overtaken…”

The report went on to state: “Today, AXA’s policy is more than outdated and difficult to justify: it allows the insurer to still invest in companies with more than 118 gigawatts of new coal production capacity, more than twice the capacity of Germany’s coal-fired power plants.

“At its annual general meeting in April 2019, AXA undertook to review this exclusion threshold for developers of new coal-fired power plants. But nothing has been said about the 159 companies that are developing mining or coal infrastructure projects.”

In terms of coverage, Pinson drew attention to what Unfriend Coal views as an inconsistency as far as AXA’s underwriting activities are concerned.

“AXA no longer directly insures new coal mine and coal-fired power plant projects,” it was noted in the report. “But the insurance giant can still provide insurance coverage, including non-life insurance, to companies that develop these same projects, even if AXA has excluded them from its investments.

“It’s another inconsistency with the 2017 commitment to not only control the impact of climate change on AXA but also the impact of AXA’s activities on the climate.”