Insurance giant rules out support for new coal, tar sands, and Arctic energy exploration projects and commits to Net Zero emissions by 2050 for underwriting and investments
American International Group Inc. (NYSE: AIG) today announced major new company-wide climate commitments, including commitments to no longer provide underwriting and investments in the construction of any new coal-fired power plants, thermal coal mines, or oil sands. Further, the company will stop providing insurance cover and investments in any new Arctic energy exploration.
The commitments, which come after years of pressure from Public Citizen, Insure our Future, and other environmental groups, will also phase out existing underwriting and investments in companies by January 1, 2030 with 30 percent or more of revenue from coal or oil sands, or 30 percent electricity generated from coal.
“As one of the last major insurers without restrictions on coal insurance, AIG’s new commitments to reduce underwriting for coal, tar sands oil, and Arctic oil and gas are a major step forward for people and the planet,” said Hannah Saggau, insurance campaigner with Public Citizen. “AIG has vaulted itself from a laggard in the industry to a leader in the U.S., and we look forward to working with it to meet and improve on these commitments.”
In addition to pumping the brakes on coal and tar sands projects, AIG is also committing to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions across its underwriting and investment portfolios by 2050 and adopt science-based emissions reduction targets in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement. In the company’s statement, AIG committed to release more information about its phase-out of fossil fuels in the coming months and to provide transparent reporting of its progress.
For over a year, Public Citizen has used direct actions, petition drives, policy advocacy, and behind the scenes pressure aimed at AIG and its CEO Peter Zaffino to demand the company stop supporting the fossil fuel expansion driving the climate crisis.
Today’s announcement marks the beginning of a new chapter in the campaign to improve AIG’s fossil fuel policies. AIG joins over 37 companies that have committed to end or restrict insurance for new coal projects, including Travelers, which recently adopted a policy. Among major U.S. insurance companies analyzed in Insure Our Future’s 2021 Scorecard on Insurance, Fossil Fuels, and Climate Change, only Berkshire Hathaway and W.R. Berkley still underwrite coal with no restrictions.
While these commitments represent major steps, the new AIG policy needs clarification and improvement.
“Ending support for coal expansion projects is strong and necessary—and it should be extended to all fossil fuels,” said Saggau. “The International Energy Agency has made it clear that to avoid climate catastrophe, there is no room for any fossil fuel expansion. AIG’s commitment to science-based climate targets should mean an end to all fossil fuel expansion, but today’s announcement doesn’t address that question.”
The new policies could have real impacts on ongoing projects around the world.
Notably, AIG’s commitment makes it the first U.S. insurer to rule out insurance for Arctic energy exploration, which pose grave threats to Indigenous rights and local ecosystems. At least 12 insurers have restricted support for oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Refuge. At the same time, however, today’s release from the company does not clearly define what areas of the Arctic nor what kind of energy exploration activities are covered by its commitment, nor does it implement a broader policy to ensure that all of the projects it insures have obtained the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent of impacted Indigenous communities.
In Canada, in the most recently publicly available insurance certificate, AIG provided coverage for the Trans Mountain Pipeline. The pipeline is a major environmental hazard and a violation of First Nations’ rights, and its expansion project consists of an entirely new pipeline that would ship more than 590,000 barrels per day of highly polluting tar sands crude oil to the coast of British Columbia. While the commitments released today ruled out insurance for the construction of any new oil sands projects, it is not clear if this includes tar sands transport projects like the Trans Mountain expansion.
“As one of the remaining potential insurers of the Trans Mountain pipeline, AIG’s commitment to rule out insurance for some tar sands projects is a first step but not enough,” said Charlene Aleck, spokesperson for the Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sacred Trust Initiative. “The Trans Mountain pipeline violates Indigenous rights and threatens our land, water, and climate. With the cost ballooning to C$21.4 billion, and the need for more private investment, this pipeline is as risky as ever. AIG must wake up to the significant financial, reputational, and environmental risks of the highly polluting tar sands sector and explicitly rule out insurance for all new tar sands transport projects.”
Written by Insure Our Future
Stop Adani is becoming one of Australia's biggest ever grassroots campaigns. If Adani's Carmichael mine goes ahead it will d estroy the ancestral lands, waters and cultures of Indigenous people, do irreperable damage to groundwaters and the ocean, and add 4.6 billion tonnes of carbon pollution to our atmosphere.
West Cumbria Mining proposes 'Woodhouse Colliery', a 50-year mine near Whitehaven in Cumbria which would produce 2.78 million tonnes of coking coal a year. The large scale underground and under-sea mine would generate over 9 million tonnes of CO2 per year producing coking coal with over 85% being exported to European steel works.
There are two main campaigns to stop Woodhouse Colliery
South Lakes Action on Climate Change (Towards Transition) undertake a range of climate-related activities in the South Lakes Area. They bring planning expertise to the campaign to stop Whitehaven, and have useful resources on their website:
Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole is run by Radiation-free Lakeland, focussing on the site's proximity to Sellafield nuclear plant and on local environmental impacts.
While the application was approved in 2019 and again in October 2020 by Cumbria County Council, it is now going to Public Inquiry in September 2021. Following the public inquiry the Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government, currently Robert Jenrick, will decide the application.
London Mining Network (LMN) is an alliance of human rights, development, environmental and solidarity groups of which Coal Action Network is a member. The network focuses on international mining companies listed on the London Stock Exchange, by monitoring human rights and environmental abuses, enabling communities on the front lines of mining in the global south to hold these companies accountable.
Coal Action Network works with LMN, frontline communities in La Guajira and international allies against the expansion of the Cerrejón coal mine in La Guajira, Colombia.
Europe Beyond Coal campaigns to ensure coal is phased out throughout Europe by 2030 at the latest. The campaign involves civil society groups working across 28 European nations, including the Western Balkans and Turkey. This is focused on power stations, but also looks at mines.
UVAG represents the interests of the many ex-coalmining communities in the upper South Wales valleys and has successfully fought several major and protracted campaigns, notably the rejection of the huge mass-burn incinerator proposed by the American company, Covanta, and the massive Nant Llesg opencast coalmine and its subsequent planning appeal.
UVAG continues to fight for environmental and social justice at home, and lending its campaigning expertise and support to other communities in the UK.
Through the Wayuu-led NGO Nación Wayuu, indigenous Wayuu elders and community leaders are gathering in a 'Permanent Assembly' - an ongoing dialogue, which can involve peaceful action to demand justice from the coal company Cerrejón, which operates Latin America's biggest coal mine in the northernmost state of Colombia, La Guajira.
This is a powerful step by communities next to the railway line where open-top carriages take coal across the state to the port. They were not included in the recent UN investigation but also suffer devestating impacts.
Cerrejón is owned by three mining multinationals who are all listed on the London Stock Exchange: Anglo American, Glencore, and BHP. They have recently been ordered to stop expanding the mine and as a result Anglo American and Glencore are now suing the Colombian Government.
(English Translation. Spanish here)
According to their legal and constitutional rights, the Traditional Authorities of the Indigenous Wayuu Movement (located in the municipalities of Maicao, are Manaure and Uribia, ancestral guardians of the territories which have been robbed and desecrated by the train track belonging to Cerrejón Limited) inform the national and international public that from 1st June 2021 they will declare a PERMANENT ASSEMBLY* for the following reasons:
For more than 40 years, the indigenous territories located in the municipality of Albania, Maicao, Manaure and Uribia, were desecrated and divided by the construction of the train line belonging to the Cerrejón company, which gave passage to an immense iron-clad long-tailed animal: a train.
The passage of this immense animal changed the lives of the Wayuu people, who now are feeling death which initially came to them slowly, and now is gathering pace. The most affected are women and children, but also the workers who go to the mine.
The situation is so critical that recently, the UN urged the mine to suspend operations in the municipality of Barrancas, near to the Wayuu reservation of Provincial, for reasons of pollution, water scarcity, and the prevention of transmission of Covid-19 in the communities who live there.
The UN High Commission in Human Rights urged the suspension of some of Cerrejón's opencast coal mine operations, located in La Guajira, Northern Colombia.
UN experts insisted the pollution that the mine produced has caused serious damage to the health of the indigenous Wayuu community who reside in this region, bordering on Venezuela.
David Boyd, UN special rapporteur for Human Rights and the Environment, said “at least during the pandemic, the operations in the Tajo Patilla site near to the Provincial reservation should be suspended until they can demonstrate that it is safe.”
He added that the Cerrejón mine had not done enough to comply with the orders of the Colombian authorities, which in December demanded the company improve air quality and limit the damage to the area's inhabitants.
According to UN commission experts, the residents suffer headaches, breathing and nasal problems, dry coughs, burning eyes and blurred vision as a consequence of the exploitation of the Cerrejón mine.
The pollution produced by Cerrejón does not only affect the communities near to the Tajo Patilla or the Provincial reservation, but also the indigenous communities, ancestral guardians of the territories located along the length of the train line and the banks of the Rancheria River. In this second wave of infections in this pandemic that threatens to exterminate humanity, these communities have been seriously affected, leaving countless people dead and many more infected, but this does not matter to the Cerrejon company, who continue their mining operation regardless.
It has been five years since the sentence was handed down which ordered urgent action to benefit the indigenous people of La Guajira, but this judicial order has not been followed through.
The justice system has placed at least 17 sanctions on Cerrejón Coal Limited for the effects that opencast coal mining has brought to the indigenous Wayuu people who live in the immediate vicinity of the mine in La Guajira. The last decision was handed down by the Constitutional Court on 13th December 2016, which included an order to compensate indigenous Wayuu communities for the severe environmental, social and cultural damage, but to this day they have offered nothing but a half-hearted semblance of compliance with this sentence.
As ancestral guardians of territory exploited by the company Cerrejón, we demand the following:
1. Suspend the train operation which transports coal to Puerto Bolivar at the weekends for 24 hours each day (Saturday and Sunday)
2. Urgently reinitiate dialogues which were unilaterally suspended by Cerrejón under the false pretext of the pandemic.
3. Comply strictly with the Constitutional Court order T-704/16
This communication is signed on 1st June 2021 by the Traditional Wayuu authorities, ancestral guardians of this territory.
*Language note: Permanent Assembly refers to an ongoing or recurring gathering to protest and/or engage in dialogue to further a campaign
We will be taking actions in solidarity with Nación Wayuu, and the affected communities. To be involved in this, and other, actions against coal, sign up to our mailing list.
You can read more about Cerrejón's devestating impact on communities in the region in this recent UN report. London Mining Network has a lot of information about communities fighting back against the mine.
This afternoon Cumbria County Council approved, for the second time, the application by West Cumbria Mining to extract 2.78 million tonnes of coking coal a year from Woodhouse Colliery, near Whitehaven.
The Councillors said that it was a finely balanced decision, with the Council proposing 101 conditions on the project. The council has already reduced the lifespan of the proposed operation from 2070 to 2049. The scientific arguments around emissions seemed to be too complex for some of the Councillors to grasp.
A year ago the decision to approve this mine was unanimous, this time 12 were in favour of accepting the application, 3 were against and 2 abstained from the voting.
The coal from this site is suitable for use in steel making, but would mainly be shipped to Europe. Alternatives methods of new steel production such as Direct Reduction Iron and recycling scrap steel already exist.
If this mine were to go ahead it would mean the first new underground coal mine to be started in the UK in many years. The last underground mine, Kellingley Colliery which produced coal for power stations was closed in 2015.
The Councillors who voted against the application had varying reasons, including expecting that the quantity of coal mined in the USA would not be reduced as the companies would find alternative markets in the USA or Latin America. West Cumbria Mining said that this mine's coal production would mean coal in other places was left underground and so there would not be additional carbon emissions due to mining an additional 2.78 million tonnes of coal but this was not unanimously accepted and has been refuted by top economists. Another Councillor had strong concerns about heritage impacts. Both the Chair and the Vice Chair voted against the application.
One of the Councillors who voted in favor of the application said, "I wasn't elected to do global issues, I was elected to do Cumbria issues".
Now the decision will go to Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, to decide whether he will call for a inquiry headed by a planning inspector into the application. If this happens the ultimate decision will be with the Secretary of State who has recently rejected the application by Banks Group to extract coal by opencast coal mining, from the Northumberland coast line.
Robert Jenrick warned the council that he would make this move if they decided to approve the application, before the hearing took place. Therefore this decision is not final.
Will you help to encourage the Secretary of State to call in this decision and decide against the application? There is a new petition launched after the application was approved, addressed to the Secretary of State.
Anne was at the hearing, and these were her thoughts at the end: "Today was a missed opportunity by Cumbria County Council to show real support for decarbonising the steel industry and rejecting this mine. The decision clearly involved careful consideration from some of the Councillors, but many said it was an exceptionally difficult case, leading to two abstentions. Society's understanding that we cannot continue to use old technology in the face of the climate emergency is growing. Consequently the Secretary of State has said he will consider whether this decision should be made by Government is an important step, a year ago that possibility was dismissed."
The UK government needs to take a strong stand on decarbonising heavy industry by stopping this application and making policy decisions that ensure real zero carbon is met quickly through bold action. The UK's hosting of the Conference of Parties (COP26) in Glasgow next year should be a big encouragement to make the right decision and reject this and other projects which would worsen global climate change.
West Cumbria Mining, the company behind the application, is owned by Australian company EMR Capital.
The UK Government has committed itself to reach net zero carbon by 2050 but as yet has not managed to set out a roadmap to decarbonise the UK steel industry.
At a time when we need to rapidly de-escalate from fossil fuels, Cumbria County Council is set to approve a new coal mine which would last until 2049 – well beyond 2030 when most of our emissions reductions must be underway in order to avoid the worst effects of the climate crisis.
We're calling on Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local government, to call-in the decision and refuse the mine permission to start - focus on a green recovery instead.
Learn more here about reasons to oppose the mine