Insurance giant The Hartford this month instituted a policy to no longer insure or invest in companies that generate more than one-quarter of their revenues or energy production from oilsands or coal.
The policy would apply to companies that generate 25% of their revenues from thermal coal mining or more than 25% of their energy production from coal. In addition, the company will also stop insuring and investing in companies that generate more than 25% of their revenues directly from the extraction of oil from tar sands, i.e. oilsands.
“The world needs affordable, accessible energy to support global economic progress and, at the same time, action is needed to mitigate the impact such activity has on our climate,” said CEO Christopher Swift. “Extreme weather affects people’s lives and businesses — and the risks are getting worse. As an insurer and asset manager we recognize the growing cost of this crisis, and we’re determined to use our resources and influence to address the challenge. That’s why we have taken a position on coal and tar sands.”
Under the policy parameters, The Harford would no longer underwrite or invest in constructing or operating new coal-fired plants. It also plans to phase out existing underwriting relationships and divest publicly traded investments that exceed the threshold for coal and oilsands by 2023.
There would be exceptions for business lines that cover employees, such as disability, life and other voluntary products offered by The Hartford’s group benefits division, in which it is providing protection to people.
In related news, Goldman Sachs in mid-December joined the exodus of other global financial players in announcing it would no longer invest in some oil exploration, including in the Arctic, and scrutinize investments in unconventional exploration, including oilsands, and which require hydraulic fracturing.
“The rapid expansion of hydraulic fracturing has contributed to the expansion of energy resources, particularly in the U.S., along with greater affordability of energy for consumers and industry, job creation and economic growth,” Goldman wrote as part of its Environmental Policy Framework. “But it has also come with increasing concerns related to water consumption, impact on water quality, wastewater disposal methods, potential seismic impacts, air emissions (including methane) and local community impacts.”
For transactions involving new unconventional oil and gas, as well as hydraulic fracturing, Goldman said it would apply enhanced due diligence to understand companies’ strategies and commitments to reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions.
For oilsands investments, particularly from the large deposits in Alberta, Goldman noted that extraction requires “significant amounts of energy and water…and there is a potential for impacts on boreal forests and local communities.” Investments also would be scrutinized for environmental impacts and “local community impacts, including those relating to Canada’s First Nations people.”
Oil development in the Arctic Circle also is of concern because of the “potential impacts to critical natural habitats for endangered species. The unique and fragile ecosystems of the Arctic region also support the subsistence livelihoods of indigenous peoples groups that have populated certain areas in the region for centuries.”
To that end, Goldman said, “We will decline any financing transaction that directly supports new upstream Arctic oil exploration or development. This includes but is not limited to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.”
In reaction to its stance on Arctic investments, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy said the state may consider whether it should do business with Goldman.
“In response to Goldman’s pledge, the governor’s office has directed the review and where possible without financial or progress impairment, the removal of Goldman from business relations with the state,” acting Revenue Commissioner Michael A. Barnhill wrote last Friday (Dec. 20) in a letter to Goldman CEO David Solomon.
Effective as of last Wednesday (Dec. 18) the underwriter evaluation committee of the Alaska Tax Credit Bond Corporation removed Goldman from its position as co-senior underwriter, which was assigned early this month, Barnhill noted.
Goldman’s new Arctic policy, he wrote, “is in direct conflict with the goals of the state of Alaska and threatens Alaska’s oil and gas industry, one of the state’s primary revenue sources and economic drivers. In response to Goldman’s pledge the governor’s office has directed the review and where possible, without financial or project progress impairment, the removal of Goldman from business relations with the state.”
Earlier this year insurance giant Chubb Ltd. adopted a policy to no longer underwrite new coal-fired construction or operations. The Swiss-based insurer has most of its business in the United States.
Chubb said it would stop underwriting for companies that generate more than 30% of their revenues from coal mining or energy production from coal. Current coverage for existing coal plants that exceed the 30% threshold are to be phased out by 2022, and utilities could be phased out beginning in 2022.
According to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, more than 100 globally significant financial institutions have divested from or developed exclusion policies for thermal coal mining and/or coal-fired plants. The number of globally significant insurers that had divested from coal as of last February was 20.
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