2023 was the hottest year on record.  The effects of the climate crisis, from water shortages to rising food prices, are being felt on every continent. Communities in Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, Pacific Islands and many others who are getting hit first and worst have done the least to cause it.

Burning fossil fuels is the number one cause of the climate crisis. Leading climate scientists and energy experts all agree: we already have more coal, oil and gas than we can ever safely burn, but fossil fuel companies show few signs of slowing. 

But we still have time to act. Stopping polluters from burning dirty fossil fuels is our best chance; changing the insurance industry is one of the most strategic, powerful and underused approaches we have.

Here’s what you need to know

Why insurance?

Fossil fuel projects need three things to operate: permits, money and insurance. Without insurance, coal mines, LNG facilities and oil pipelines can’t advance. Insurers are also big investors, with hundreds of billions of dollars invested in coal, oil and gas companies.  

Insurers are supposed to measure risk and protect people from it, to act as a safety net for when things go wrong. Instead, the insurance industry is investing in new and expanded fossil fuel projects. Insurers are also experts in greenwashing. They may talk about ‘sustainability’, but insurers are turning their backs on vulnerable communities by pulling home insurance from those areas most at risk of wildfires, flooding and storms. At the same time, many of these same insurers are supporting harmful new oil and gas projects which are causing extreme weather in the first place. 

Insuring and investing in fossil fuels is also not economically sound, as insurers lose huge amounts of money to natural catastrophes. Insuring fossil fuels earned the industry approximately $21.25 billion in 2022, but extreme weather caused an estimated $270 billion in damages, of which approximately $120 billion were insured. Natural catastrophes have cost the industry an average of $110 billion a year since 2017.

In response to these huge losses, many insurers are raising their home insurance prices, passing on the cost to ordinary consumers in a cost-of-living crisis. Insurers must take responsibility for the disaster they have helped to create.

We can have a BIG impact

But, we can change things. The fossil fuel insurance industry is very concentrated: just 20 companies provide around 70% of the world’s fossil fuel industry insurance. Just 6 reinsurance companies control an estimated 50% of the global reinsurance market.

When we move a few key players we can have a huge impact.

Insurance campaigning has already made new coal plants almost uninsurable and stopped many from going ahead. Thanks to campaigners raising their voices, coal companies are finding it increasingly difficult to access insurance coverage even for their ongoing operations. Due to the campaign, 45 companies have committed to end or restrict insurance for coal projects, and 26 companies have introduced policies committing to end or restrict insurance on tar sands projects. 

Now, we need to do the same for oil and gas. So far, 18 companies have committed to end or restrict insurance for new oil and gas projects. If enough of us push the insurance industry to change, we can truly create a powerful impact and help ensure a safer tomorrow for our communities. 

Victories so far

Campaigners have successfully persuaded insurers to rule out some particularly controversial projects, forcing them to delay their construction or expansion plans, including:

East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP): planned to be the world’s longest heated oil pipeline, EACOP would run from Uganda to Tanzania cutting through Lake Victoria, the second-largest freshwater lake in the world. Thanks to communities and campaigners uncovering human rights abuses and severe pollution risks, 28 global insurers have publicly ruled out EACOP. As a result, the pipeline has been stuck in the planning stages for over 4 years and construction has not yet begun.

Adani Carmichael Coal mega mine: planned as Australia’s biggest-ever coal mine, Adani wants to extract up to 60 million tonnes of coal per year at the site. This would cause huge damage to the Great Barrier Reef, the homelands of Indigenous communities, and our chances of limiting global overheating. Community resistance and campaigning has slowed down the project, now 7 years behind schedule. Over 40 insurers have so far ruled out insuring any part of the Adani Carmichael coal mine.

Trans Mountain pipeline: this highly toxic oil tar sands project in Canada would produce emissions equivalent to adding 2.2 million cars to the road. The pipeline has been resisted by Indigenous communities, whose land would be impacted and who have not given their consent. Campaigners have so far persuaded 18 insurers to rule out the pipeline, causing ongoing delay to its construction.

What we can do

Join Insure our Future’s global week of action! 

Insurance execs can be climate leaders. They are not tied to fossil fuels and can refuse to support this dirty business. Some of the leaders have started to move, but those at the back must act now and upgrade their policies, saying no to new coal, oil and gas. Courage in 2024 means choosing people over profit. It means choosing a safe, healthy world for our children and loved ones, instead of the short-term profits of fossil fuels.

Get involved with the week of action and raise your voice for the following demands:

  • Stop enabling fossil fuels:

Immediately cease insuring new and expanded coal, oil, and gas projects and the companies developing them.

  • Respect human rights:

Immediately adopt robust due diligence and verification mechanisms to ensure that clients fully respect all human rights, including a requirement that they obtain and document the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) of impacted Indigenous Peoples and communities.

  • Support a just transition:

Play an active role in the just transition by increasing support to renewable projects by and for communities most impacted by climate change and those facing an energy-access crisis.

Learn more and join the week of action