Ricardo Lara Puts Brakes On California’s Climate Leadership

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Los Angeles, CA — On Earth Day, California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara chose “collaboration” with the insurance industry over urgent climate action. Commissioner Lara rejected a petition from 60 environmental, consumer and social justice groups that sought emergency rules to make insurers disclose the fossil fuel projects they insure. The Commissioner’s refusal to act allows insurers to keep their complicity in global warming secret and puts the brakes on the forward momentum on climate built by the previous Department of Insurance, said Consumer Watchdog.

“Commissioner Lara positions himself as a climate champion yet rejected this simple step towards transparency. Every new scientific study finds the climate threat is more urgent than the last. In denying this petition, Commissioner Lara denies that urgency in favor of more talk and ‘collaboration’ with the insurance industry. By refusing to acknowledge the insurance industry’s role in causing global warming, he’s abdicating California’s leadership role in combating climate change,” said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog.

Climate change-exacerbated catastrophes are costing insurance companies billions, making extreme weather events worse and exposing the industry to financial and physical risks. The November 2018 wildfires alone, including the Camp and Woolsey fires, have caused more than $11.4 billion in insured losses, according to the California Department of Insurance.

“Insurance Commissioner Lara’s decision not to pursue common sense disclosure is a gift to those insurance companies which continue to underwrite coal, oil and gas” said Greenpeace USA Executive Director Annie Leonard. “By refusing to use his authority to hold insurance companies accountable for their continued support of fossil fuels, Commissioner Lara has decided that the profits of a handful of irresponsible insurance companies are more important than the fight against dangerous climate change.”

Read Insurance Commissioner Lara’s denial of the petition: https://consumerwatchdog.org/sites/default/files/2019-04/LaraClimateDenial_0.pdf 

Read the petition submitted to Commissioner Lara in March by the 60 organizations below: https://consumerwatchdog.org/sites/default/files/2019-03/FossilFuelPetition.pdf

The Insurance Commissioner in California has broad authority to require insurance companies to disclose any information necessary to ensure consumers’ access to insurance and a responsibility to ensure the financial stability of the companies it oversees.

The California Department of Insurance’s Climate Risk Carbon Initiative currently requires disclosure of fossil fuel-related investments by insurance companies writing more than $100 million in premiums. The disclosures sought by the petition would have expanded those disclosures to cover all underwriting of and investment in fossil fuel projects by the 1,300 insurance companies that do business in California, the largest insurance market in the nation. 

U.S. insurance companies are lagging behind their European counterparts when it comes to addressing the risks posed by fossil fuels. 22 major European insurers have divested from coal and tar sands companies and 11 have stopped or limited underwriting for the coal and tar sands industries. No major U.S. insurance company has so far pledged to divest its holdings in fossil fuel companies or restrict underwriting for fossil fuel projects.

Some insurers have begun to argue that the extreme weather events caused by climate change will make property insurance increasingly unavailable to all but the wealthiest consumers. To preserve consumers’ access to insurance, companies should be cutting ties with the fossil fuel industry, not raising prices and refusing to sell coverage, said Consumer Watchdog.

A national coalition of non-profit organizations, Insure Our Future, seeks to hold the insurance industry accountable for its role in supporting climate change and move the industry out of fossil fuels. Learn more at https://www.insureourfuture.us/

The public interest organizations signing the petition include:
1000 Grandmothers for Future Generations
350 Bay Area
350 Chico
350 Conejo/San Fernando Valley
350 Maine
350 Silicon Valley
350 South Bay Los Angeles
350 Marin
Alameda County Interfaith Climate Action Network
Amazon Watch
Asian Pacific Environmental Network
Climate Resolve
Coalition for Clean Air
Communities for a Better Environment (CBE)
Connecticut Citizens Action Group
Courage Campaign
Divest Invest
Filipino/American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity (FACES)
Food & Water Watch
Fossil Free California
Fox Valley Citizens for Peace & Justice
Friends of the Earth U.S.
Fundacja “Rozwój TAK – Odkrywki NIE”
Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice
Indivisible South Bay LA
Market Forces
Movement for a People’s Party
Bay Area-System Change not Climate Change
Beyond Extreme Energy
Bold Alliance
California Environmental Justice Alliance
Californians Against Fracking and Dangerous Drilling
Center for Biological Diversity
Center for International Environmental Law
Climate Hawks Vote
No Coal Alliance
No Coal in Oakland
No Coal in Richmond
No Coal Vallejo
Oil Change International
Public Citizen
Rainforest Action Network
San Francisco Baykeeper
Sierra Club California
SoCal 350 Climate Action
Sunflower Alliance
Sunrise Project
Sustainable Energy & Economy Network
Waterkeeper Alliance

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Jamie Court
Jamie Court
Consumer Watchdog's President and Chairman of the Board is an award-winning and nationally recognized consumer advocate. The author of three books, he has led dozens of campaigns to reform insurance companies, financial institutions, energy companies, political accountability and health care companies.

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