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90,000 people call on Generali to end support for coal ahead of annual results

Petition calls on insurer to follow lead set by AXA and cease insuring mines and plants

More than 90,000 people are calling on Generali to end support for coal, as Europe’s third biggest insurer announces its 2017 financial results.

“Every day 53 people in Europe die an early death because of coal pollution”, states a petition on WeMove.EU, organised by NGOs supporting the Insure Our Future campaign, one of three petitions which are calling on the insurer to stop insuring coal projects and divest from the industry.

They highlight Generali’s support for Poland’s coal industry, the most polluting in Europe, which causes an estimated 5,830 premature deaths every year including 430 in its home country Italy. Generali provides insurance for:

  • Europe’s second largest coal plant – 4,016MW – at Kozienice, Poland. Even before a recent expansion it was estimated to cause 650 premature deaths each year, 14,140 asthma attacks in children and emit more than 11 million tonnes of CO2.
  • The biggest coal power plant under construction in Europe, an 1800MW expansion at Opole, Poland, due to start operating in 2019.
  • Turow open-pit mine, which supplies 7 million tonnes of lignite a year, the dirtiest form of coal. The mine lowers groundwater levels significantly, affecting drinking water for 30,000 people.

The WeMove.EU petition, signed by more than 63,000 people, accuses Generali of putting profits before people and the planet.  It says: “With one hand they insure the health of a child who suffers from asthma. With the other, they help fund the coal pollution which makes him sick.”

More than 21,400 people have signed a petition organised by Greenpeace Italy which highlights the contradiction between Generali’s role providing insurance against natural disasters and its support for coal, one of the biggest causes of climate change and extreme weather events.

Polish NGO Akcja Demokracja was due to deliver a third petition signed by more than 5,600 people to Generali’s Warsaw offices on Wednesday 14th March. It states: “Thousands of people suffer from respiratory and circulatory conditions resulting from air pollution. Burning coal in Polish power plants, which are insured by Generali, is one of the main reasons behind this.”

Generali does business all over Europe and is one of the world’s largest insurance companies with 55 million customers in more than 60 countries worldwide. The WeMove.EU petition calls on it to follow the lead set by AXA, Zurich and SCOR by announcing restrictions on underwriting coal projects and ending investments in the industry.

AXA announced the industry’s most progressive policies on climate change in December 2017, pledging to stop insuring any new coal, tar sands and associated pipeline projects and to divest another €2.4 billion from coal and €700 million from oil sands and producers and associated pipelines.

CEO Thomas Buberl said: “At AXA, we are willing to make all efforts to help mitigate climate change. Unsustainable business will become un-investable and uninsurable business.”

In February, after the petition was launched, Generali announced plans to divest €2 billion from coal and make no new investments in businesses associated with the coal sector. However, it failed to make any commitments to restrict underwriting.

Coal is the biggest single source of carbon emissions. Last year the UN called for no new coal-fired power stations worldwide and an accelerated phase-out of existing plants as key steps to achieving international climate goals.

Recent research by the financial think tank Carbon Tracker reveals that more than half of EU coal plants are already loss-making, and the falling cost of renewables, tougher air quality standards, and rising carbon prices will push this up to 97% by 2030.

Insurers are uniquely placed to support the transition away from coal. By ceasing to underwrite and invest in coal projects, they can improve public health, increase life expectancy for thousands of people, and support international climate targets and the fight against dangerous global warming.

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