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New global anti-fossil fuel campaign targets QBE

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A coalition of climate activists has launched a new campaign today to pressure insurers including QBE to immediately stop doing business with the oil and gas industries.

QBE is the only Australian insurer singled out by Insure Our Future, the group previously known as Unfriend Coal, in its letter to the CEOs of 30 global insurers and investors, urging them to step up their efforts to curb man-made carbon emissions.

European and North American insurers dominate the list of names in the letter, reflecting their significant business interest in oil and gas. Munich Re, Zurich, Allianz, Axa, HDI Global, Chubb, Berkshire Hathaway and Lloyd’s are among the insurers that the letter was addressed to.

“Insurers have a responsibility to support international climate targets and align their businesses with the Paris Agreement,” the letter said.

“As governments plan the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, insurers need to champion the transition to a sustainable, fair and resilient future as underwriters, investors and corporate citizens.”

The letter lists five areas of action such as the immediate withdrawal from new oil and gas expansion projects, a commitment to phase out insurance for oil and gas producers and divestment of assets from oil, gas and coal companies.

A spokesman for QBE declined to comment on the latest pressure campaign.

Market Forces campaigner Pablo Brait says while QBE isn’t a major oil and gas insurer by global standards, the insurer is still involved with the sector – a position that runs contrary to its public support of climate-saving initiatives.

“They are the biggest in Australia,” he told insuranceNEWS.com.au. “We want to see QBE put an immediate end to underwriting new oil and gas projects and set dates for the phase-out of exposure to oil and gas in both its underwriting and investment.”

Market Forces is one of the signatories in the letter and has been a vocal critic of QBE’s climate change policy, pushing the insurer to set out targets to reduce its fossil fuel exposures. Shareholders rejected resolutions at the last two AGMs.

At the last AGM in May, QBE reiterated its commitment to reduce its fossil fuel exposure with Chairman Mike Wilkins saying climate change presents a “material risk” to the business.

“We have already committed to setting metrics and targets to measure and monitor climate-related risks and opportunities this year,” he said then in his address to shareholders.

“The targets will be portfolio-wide – not just confined to oil and gas as the proposed resolution asks – and they will be published in our 2020 annual report, one year earlier than the timing described in the proposed resolution.”