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Anti-coal stance 'benefits insurers long-term'

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Insurers cutting back on cover to the coal sector may lose business in the short term, but the long-term benefits could be considerable, data and analytics company GlobalData says.

“Ceasing protection for fossil-fuel based energy providers may enable the industry to benefit from reduced exposure to potential environmental liability risks and enhance its public reputation,” Insurance Analyst Daniel Pearce said.

The action by insurers aims to help reduce climate change and force the energy industry to embrace renewables amid concerns about increased frequency of extreme weather events and forecast problems from rising sea levels.

Axa’s recently acquired XL division will no longer insure any construction projects related to coal-fired power plants and the extraction of tar sands, with the move expected to drive a €100 million ($164.9 million) loss in revenue mainly next year.

Other European insurers are making similar decisions but according to Moody’s there has been no meaningful loss of business for the handful of providers that have taken such action, London-based GlobalData says.

Chubb says by 2022 it will no longer provide insurance or investments to companies that operate coal-fired plants, or to firms for which coal mining generates more than 30% of revenue.

QBE expects to have phased out all underwriting business for thermal coal customers, except statutory or compulsory insurance, by 2030.

Suncorp says it has a policy of not investing in or underwriting new coal-related businesses and will phase out the exposures by 2025.

“We will seek to increase exposure to businesses that have a positive environmental impact, including renewable energy generation and technology,” a spokesman said.