The number of insurers withdrawing cover for coal projects more than doubled this year and for the first time US companies have taken action, leaving Lloyd’s of London and Asian insurers as the “last resort” for fossil fuels, according to a new report.
The report, which rates the world’s 35 biggest insurers on their actions on fossil fuels, declares that coal – the biggest single contributor to climate change – “is on the way to becoming uninsurable” as most coal projects cannot be financed, built or operated without insurance.
The first insurers to exit coal policies were all European, but since March, two US insurers – Chubb and Axis Capital – and the Australian firms QBE and Suncorp have pledged to stop or restrict insurance for coal projects.
At least 35 insurers with combined assets of $8.9tn, equivalent to 37% of the insurance industry’s global assets, have begun pulling out of coal investments. A year ago, 19 insurers holding more than $6tn in assets were divesting from fossil fuels.
This is definitely the end game for coal. Governments could step in to create insurance pools for coal companies, but 1) these pools would likely cost more and cover less, and 2) the public will not be happy with tax funds being used to prop up coal plants.
The next, more catastrophic insurance industry move will be when these companies and their re-insurers (like SwissRe) refuse to write polices for coastal areas because of escalating flood and hurricane threats. When that happens, governments will either have to underwrite the risk at tax payer expense, or see the entire housing market for those areas collapse.