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Inexperienced insurers now underwriting operating coal plants as mainstream companies increasingly exit market

Reposted from original press release by Insure our Future

Utilities are struggling to find insurance to build new coal power outside China, finds a report released today by the Insure Our Future campaign and Korean non-profit Solutions for Our Climate, which have obtained documents providing a rare snapshot of the state of the industry.

The insurance contracts for KEPCO, Korea’s national power utility, also reveal that it is having to turn to smaller, inexperienced companies to secure cover for coal power plants that are already in operation as growing numbers of mainstream insurers withdraw from the sector.

“Major international insurers have withdrawn from coal projects and been replaced by a haphazard coalition of the willing, consisting of a few global climate laggards, small speciality insurers and assorted companies from the Global South. Our report exposes Starr, Liberty Mutual, Berkshire Hathaway, Allied World and Lloyd's of London as the coal industry’s last lifeline."

- Peter Bosshard Global Coordinator of the Insure Our Future Campaign and report author

Since the Insure Our Future campaign launched in 2017 at least 39 insurers have ended or limited their cover for new coal projects. However, the report confirms that even prominent international brands like Hannover Re (Germany), SCOR (France), QBE (Australia) and Helvetia (Switzerland) continue to underwrite existing coal plants, supporting companies like KEPCO that have no plans to phase out coal in line with climate targets.

Coal is the biggest single source of carbon emissions. To stay on track for the 1.5°C Paris Agreement climate target, consumption of coal must fall by 9.5% per year.1 No investment in new fossil fuel production is consistent with that target, according to the International Energy Agency, yet it warns that coal demand could reach all-time highs in 2022 and stay at that level until 2024.2

The insurance industry is under growing pressure to align its policies with 1.5°C. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the Insurance Development Forum last year: “We need net zero commitments to cover your underwriting portfolios, and this should include the underwriting of coal – and all fossil fuels!”3

Asia is at the centre of global coal power generation and development, accounting for 91% of all plants planned or in construction worldwide (414GW out of 457GW) and 73% of operating coal plants (1,518GW out of 2075GW).4 KEPCO is a major player, developing and operating coal power projects in several Asian countries and arranging insurance on the global market.

In March 2018, KEPCO signed contracts with 19 insurers to underwrite the construction of the 1.3GW Nghi Son 2 plant in Vietnam for a total $7.2 billion. Four years on, 72% of the insurance capacity which underwrote that project has been withdrawn from the market.

“It is now unlikely that large new coal power plants outside China can be insured. The withdrawal of so many insurers has made it much more cumbersome and expensive to obtain cover. The few insurers who remain will find it challenging to provide the vast expertise and capacity required to insure a complex new coal power plant.”

- Peter Bosshard

The Insure Our Future report, EXPOSED: The Coal Insurers of Last Resort, analyses documents provided by the Office of Korean National Assembly Member Soyoung Lee, which give details of insurance contracts for five KEPCO coal power projects. Governments, insurers and insurance brokers do not normally disclose information about which companies insure which projects, so it presents a unique insight into the withdrawal of insurers from the world’s leading coal market.

Lloyd’s insurers provide more than a third of the capacity still available for new coal projects

When KEPCO insured the construction of Nghi Son 2 in March 2018, most international insurers had yet to adopt coal exit policies. The project was underwritten by numerous large multiline and speciality insurers and reinsurers, led by Germany’s Allianz with $1.1 billion.

By October 2021, when KEPCO insured the construction of the 1.2GW Vung Ang 2 plant in Vietnam for a total $4.4 billion, most large international insurers had withdrawn from the coal market. Asian insurers provided 55% of total capacity, led by Japan’s MS&AD with $1.2 billion of cover, North American insurers provided 38% and European insurers 7%.

Half (53%) of the insurance capacity provided to Vung Ang in October 2021 has now been withdrawn from the market with MS&AD, Sompo and Tokio Marine in Japan, Hiscox in the UK and AIG in the US announcing that they will no longer insure new coal projects. China also announced in September 2021 that it will no longer build coal power projects overseas and Chinese insurers are expected to exit the international market.

Five “insurers of last resort” now provide 72% of the capacity for Vung Ang 2 which is still available for new coal projects: US companies Starr, Berkshire Hathaway and Liberty Mutual (the only insurer with a coal exit policy that allows it to continue covering new projects); Allied World in Bermuda; and eight other insurers operating in the Lloyd’s market. 5

Lloyd’s of London insurers, which include Allied World and two Liberty Mutual subsidiaries, now provide 37% of the capacity still available to the market. In December 2020, Lloyd’s ruled out insuring new coal projects from 2022 but has since made clear that it will not require insurers in its market to follow the policy.

"These findings make clear that the Lloyd's market, Starr, Liberty Mutual, Berkshire Hathaway and Allied World are the world’s coal insurers of last resort. At a time when we urgently need to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels, their reckless support for new coal projects drives us ever closer to unmanageable climate breakdown."

 - Elana Sulakshana, Senior Energy Finance Campaigner at Rainforest Action Network

Insurance for operating coal plants harder to find as experienced insurers exit market

The replacement of large, experienced international insurers with a wide variety of smaller actors also affects the operation of existing coal power plants. In June 2021, KEPCO had to find 24 different insurers to provide $556 million of cover for the operation of its small 206MW Cebu Naga power plant in the Philippines. Eleven were not insuring any other KEPCO projects and one, New India Insurance, lacks the A-credit rating that project financiers typically expect insurers to provide.

Global insurance broker Willis Towers Watson warned as early as January 2019 that “the exodus of many international insurers from the market for coal risks complicates securing property coverage” and “this reduction in available capacity will invariably see upward pressure on rates and coverages.” 6

However, the report also shows that many insurers with coal exit policies are continuing to provide cover for companies such as KEPCO that have no credible plans to phase out coal production. They include leading brands Hannover Re, which only plans to phase out insurance for the biggest coal companies by 2025, SCOR and QBE, which have a 2030 target, and Helvetia, which has no phase-out target.

“KEPCO and other power utilities need to rapidly phase out their coal power fleets in line with global climate targets, and insurance companies should stop insuring power utilities which have no credible phase-out plans. Power utilities and their insurers need to urgently move beyond a pathway which is projected to take the planet to a catastrophic 2.7°C of global warming by the end of the century.”

- Sooyoun Han, Climate Researcher at Solutions For Our Climate

 

Only 37% of OECD coal power capacity (100GW) is scheduled to close by 2030 and 6% of non-OECD capacity (100GW) by 2050. 7

The report says that for insurers to align with the Paris target they must:

  • Immediately stop insuring new coal plants, coal mines and associated infrastructure;
  • Stop insuring the operations of companies developing new coal power;
  • Stop insuring the operations of coal companies which have not adopted phase-out plans in line with credible 1.5°C pathways by the end of 2022.

1 One Earth Climate Model, Sectoral Pathways to Net-Zero Emissions, 18-5-22
2 IEA, Coal power’s sharp rebound is taking it to a new record in 2021, threatening net zero goals, 17-12-21
3 UN, Secretary-General’s closing remarks to Insurance Development Forum, 18-6-21
4 Global Energy Monitor, Global Coal Plant Tracker: Coal-fired Power Capacity By Region, January 2022
5 Beazley, Chaucer, Canopius, Markel, Antares, Cincinnati, AEGIS and W.R. Berkley.
6 Willis Towers Watson, Ready and Waiting? Power and Renewable Energy Market Review 2019
7 Global Energy Monitor, Boom and Bust Coal, April 2022

Full report

Read the full report here

Reposted from Insure our Future

Lloyd’s new ESG report: greenwashing, not climate action

Lloyd’s of London published its 2021 Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Report two days ahead of its Annual General Meeting on May 19.

Lloyd’s second ESG report is a document almost completely lacking in substance which does more to obscure the climate destroying actions of its members than to shed light on how it intends to reach its often stated net-zero by 2050 ambition. It has almost no information on concrete climate action and raises many serious questions about Lloyd’s.

Most notably, Lloyd’s second ESG report says nothing about the outcomes of the climate commitments it made in its first ESG report released at the end of 2020. Previously, Lloyd’s stated it was asking its managing agents to not provide any new cover for coal-fired plants, coal mines, oil sands and Arctic energy exploration from 1st January 2022. Yet, its current report fails to report on whether or not its members are fulfilling this commitment.

Whilst Lloyd’s ESG report doesn’t tell us, we already know from other sources that not all members of Lloyd’s market have stopped providing new insurance cover for new coal projects.

For example, a recent public report by London based insurance broker Alesco, noted that while many Lloyd’s members have adopted the policy, others continue to accept new coal business.

Why has Lloyd’s, which knows these facts, not been open or honest about them in this report? Which Lloyd’s members are ignoring Lloyd’s stated ambitions? What action is Lloyd’s taking to bring those members into line? What value do Lloyd’s stated climate ambitions and targets have when they are so plainly ignored by some of its members with no consequence?

Instead of addressing these obvious questions Lloyd’s is trying to cover up its failure to deliver on its climate commitments. In other words, Lloyd’s 2021 ESG report is greenwash.

Whilst avoiding mention of its failure to have all members exclude the very worst fossil fuel projects, this report goes much further in the wrong direction. Lloyd’s doubles-down on requiring its members to continue to insure what it terms the “harder-to-abate sectors”, by which it presumably means it plans to adopt no restrictions on new oil and gas exploration. Lloyd’s completely ignores the IPCC, the IEA and others which make clear that no new oil and gas projects are compatible with staying within 1.5C global warming, and that existing production needs to be phased down.

One example of concrete climate action Lloyd’s trumpets is appointing its first Sustainability Director. The ESG report fails to mention that Lloyd’s management gave the role to one of its Senior Public Relations Officers, who had no previous sustainability-related experience. Is that an example of bringing in a great communicator to an important new priority role? Or a classic example of treating ESG as more of a public relations exercise than a substantive issue? What is clear is that the quantity and quality of largely substance free public relations materials from Lloyd’s about sustainability has increased significantly in the last 12 months.

Lloyd’s Council Chair Bruce Carnegie-Brown and its CEO John Neal sign off the report saying:

“We hope this report equips you with a helpful and comprehensive summary of our ESG activity – and we look forward to working with you to build the braver world it imagines.”

In a climate crisis that presents an existential threat to life on earth, Lloyd’s is stuck in its PR bubble talking about sharing risks to create a braver world, when in reality its members provide the insurance cover for, and invest in, climate and human-rights destroying fossil fuel projects and companies.

Lloyd’s new ESG report exemplifies many of the worst aspects of corporate greenwashing. Saying it is committed to net-zero by 2050, but not having detailed targets and not enforcing the targets it does express is not a climate science aligned policy, it is greenwash. Lloyd’s Council, led by its Chairman Bruce Carnegie-Brown, needs to start taking genuine climate action by ensuring Lloyd’s members stop insuring and investing in new fossil fuels and phase out existing investments and insurance in-line with climate science. Nothing less will do.

Finally, there are a few words in the report that I do agree with:

Rebekah Clement Lloyd’s new Sustainability Director: “The work is nowhere near done…”

David Sansom Lloyd’s Chief Risk officer: “We have much more to do…”

Notes

Alesco Energy Update 2022. Page 21: “1 January 2022 saw the introduction of the new Lloyd’s directive as regards to coal; with the initially proposed stance being that no new coal business was to be underwritten from that date. However, in light of subsequent discussions between various parties, there has been a subtle change of emphasis with each syndicate now having a more individual responsibility towards their attitude to the new coal business. Many have chosen to remain with the existing policy of not putting any new coal accounts onto their books; but others have adopted a policy of accepting new business where the client can demonstrate a clear approach to working towards an orderly transition to renewable energy”.

Aberpergwm: Live locally? Get informed & active

Energybuild hasn't kept local people in the loop...

... So we thought we would!

Volunteers from Neath Port Talbot Friends of the Earth have given out flyers in Glynneath to start conversations and direct people towards this information about the mine expansion, and about how you can take action as people living near Aberpergwm.

References

1Planning Application P2014/0729 Mining Zones Map (Neath Port Talbot Council planning portal)

[2]Coal Authority production statistics: 25666 (2019) 16957 (2020) 19690 (2021) tonnes was produced. Average 20,771 tonnes of coal.

[3]Planning Permission document P2014/0729 (14)

[4]Planning Permission document P2014/0729 (22)

[5]Planning Permission document P2014/0729 (7)

[7] Wales carbon budgets/targets March 2021: https://gov.wales/climate-change-targets-and-carbon-budgets

[8] Core samples show 88.3% fixed carbon content https://orca.cardiff.ac.uk/115771/1/Zagorscak%20and%20Thomas%20(2018).pdf (126)

[9] In excess of 95% fixed carbon content: https://mineralmilling.com/anthracite-filter-media/

[10] Coal in Steel : Problems & Solutions (Coal Action Network)

[11] Wales carbon budgets/targets March 2021: https://gov.wales/climate-change-targets-and-carbon-budgets

[12]Channel 4 News report, research provided by Global Energy Monitor https://www.channel4.com/news/are-cop26-promises-on-coal-being-broken (04.02.22)

[13] https://www.iea.org/reports/net-zero-by-2050

[14] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-03821-8