Climate Activists Crashed a Global Insurance Meeting to Demand Exit From Coal Companies

Climate activists brought their message that insurance companies need to stop supporting coal projects to a global meeting of insurance CEOs in San Francisco. On June 15, activists interrupted the opening session of the CEO gathering at the Ritz Carlton Hotel and raised a banner that read, "The World’s Best Insurance? Keeping Coal in the Ground."


The banner display was part of a series of climate protests welcoming the insurance CEOs, who met in San Francisco at the invitation of the Geneva Association, an insurance think-tank. A letter was also sent to the individual CEOs, calling for them to move away from coal and invest in renewables.

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Then, on the following day, activists conveyed their message with a public rally of insurance mascots to greet the CEOs, and circled the executives' closing dinner at a landmark hotel tower with a plane displaying the message, "Insurers: Unfriend Coal Now."

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Tess Geyer, a local climate activist, said, "I took action today because insurance companies have warned about climate risks for more than 40 years, yet they continue to insure and invest in coal projects to this day. This has to stop: Our best insurance is to keep fossil fuels in the ground."

The San Francisco protests are part of a global campaign to convince insurance companies to stop enabling coal projects coordinated by the Unfriend Coal coalition. As part of the campaign, 13 NGOs, including 350.org, AVAAZ, Rainforest Action Network, Greenpeace Switzerland and Friends of the Earth France, called on the insurance industry to take the following actions in a letter to 25 leading insurance companies:

  • Stop insuring coal projects and divest from coal companies
  • Develop plans to move away from other fossil fuels
  • Scale up their investments in clean energy sources

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Climate change is the most serious risk our planet is facing, and burning coal is its biggest contributor. By stopping to insure and divesting from coal companies, insurers can fulfill their basic mission: to protect us from catastrophic risk.

Research reports by Ceres and Profundo have found that 55 leading U.S. and European insurers have invested at least $590 billion in fossil fuel companies. Most property and casualty insurers also continue to insure and enable climate-destroying coal projects.

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So far, eight insurance companies have decided to divest from the coal sector, and AXA, the world’s biggest insurer, announced in April that it would no longer insure coal companies. The Unfriend Coal coalition welcomed this initial progress and will rank the climate performance of 25 leading insurance companies in a scorecard released in the fall of 2017.

Watch a video of the protest:

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(photos and video credit: Unfriend Coal)

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