By Staff Reporters, INTELLIGENT INSURER
March 22, 2019
A petition, signed by 60 organisations, has called for more than 1,300 insurance companies that do business in California to disclose the fossil fuel projects they insure and invest in.
Organised by campaign group Consumer Watchdog, a partner of the Unfriend Coal campaign, the petition has been sent to California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. It urged Lara to introduce the move as an emergency regulation.
The group questioned why insurers continue to cover fossil fuel infrastructure while also recognising climate change is responsible for billions in catastrophe losses stemming from wildfires, mudslides and flooding.
The November 2018 wildfires, including the Camp and Woolsey fires, have caused more than $11.4 billion in insured losses, according to the California Department of Insurance. The disclosures sought by the petition would cover the more than 1,300 insurance companies that do business in California, the largest insurance market in the US.
Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog, said: “By insuring the fossil fuel projects responsible for the increased intensity of wildfires, mudslides and flooding, insurance companies fuel the very disasters they are insuring homeowners against. It’s outrageous that survivors of wildfires and other disasters have to fight with their insurance companies for coverage while insurers are paying out billions to the fossil fuel companies responsible.”
While Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace, and petition signatory, said: "Insurance companies are supposed to be the last line of defense against calamitous weather events like hurricanes and fires. But by continuing to invest in fossil fuel companies and underwriting their operations the U.S. insurance industry appears to just blithely continue to throw fuel on the source of the problem. Unless they start taking decisive actions to ditch coal, oil and gas -- as many of Europe’s largest insurers and reinsurers have done -- U.S. insurers risk being flooded by increasing claims, litigation and public indignation.”
The petition also asks the Insurance Commissioner to expand disclosure of insurance companies’ fossil fuel-related investments. 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. This excludes half of the insurance companies in California.