Zurich Insurance Group Becomes First Primary Insurer to Commit to Not Underwriting Tar Sands Companies

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Zurich Insurance Group Becomes First Primary Insurer to Commit to Not Underwriting Tar Sands Companies

New policy excludes companies dedicated to tar sands transportation infrastructure including pipelines and railways

Zurich, Switzerland - Today, Zurich Insurance Group announced an updated fossil fuel policy which commits to cutting both insurance and investment support for coal developers, utilities, mine operators, and companies significantly involved in tar sands or oil shale. The policy will make Zurich the first primary insurer to refuse coverage to tar sands companies as well as companies that are dedicated transportation infrastructure operators for oil sands products, including pipelines and railways. 

“We are pleased to see a global insurance company acknowledging the destructive nature of the tar sands industry by committing to stop insuring both tar sands companies and the companies that threaten Indigenous lands and people with tar sands pipelines and railways,” said Dallas Goldtooth, Keep it in the Ground Campaign Organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network. “Indigenous resistance to tar sands in North America has proven to be an imposing force and shows no sign of stopping. We are calling on all insurance companies to stop supporting the tar sands industry.”

Zurich Insurance Group’s new policy states the company will, after a two year deadline, no longer underwrite or invest in companies that:

  • “Generate more than 30% of their revenue from mining thermal coal, or produce more than 20 million tons of thermal coal per year;

  • Generate more than 30% of their electricity from coal;

  • Are in the process of developing any new coal mining or coal power infrastructure;

  • Generate at least 30% of their revenue directly from the extraction of oil from oil sands;

  • Are purpose-built (or “dedicated”) transportation infrastructure operators for oil sands products, including pipelines and railway transportation;

  • Generate more than 30% of their revenue from mining oil shale, or 

  • Generate more than 30% of their electricity from oil shale.”

“With Zurich’s announcement today it is clear that US insurance companies like Liberty Mutual, Chubb, and AIG need to follow the lead of their European counterparts and commit to not insuring or investing in fossil fuels,” said Annie Leonard, Executive Director of Greenpeace US. “The insurance industry, like all of us, is directly impacted by climate change as we see more and more extreme weather events around the globe. These companies can become part of the solution by walking away from coal and tar sands altogether.”

Zurich was one of the first insurers to move away from fossil fuels in 2017, but its previous policy used a weaker 50% revenue threshold. Since then several other European insurers, and numerous asset owners and banks have moved beyond these coal exclusion criteria and introduced lower limits. With its updated policy, Zurich is the first major global insurer to apply such criteria to insurance coverage as well as investments. Similarly, for tar sands, while AXA has committed to divest from the sector and end its coverage to new tar sands projects, Zurich is going a step further with restrictions at the corporate level as well. Zurich is the first primary insurer to plan restrictions on the shale oil sector. 

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