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Dirty business: insurance companies supporting the growth of Polish coal

This briefing focuses on non-Polish European insurers playing a critical role in supporting the coal industry and its expansion in Poland. Since 2013, they have signed at least 21 underwriting contracts, providing cover without which new projects could not be built and existing operations would have to shut down.

State-owned PGE is adding 1,800MW to its Opole coal plant, the biggest coal power plant currently under development in Europe. Allianz leads the consortium underwriting Opole, which includes Generali, Munich Re and Poland’s PZU. European insurers like these are supporting the Polish coal industry, whose activities are actively working against international attempts to prevent dangerous climate change, and whose pollution causes an estimated 5,830 premature deaths every year, including 4,690 outside Poland. European insurers also finance the Polish coal industry through their local Polish pension funds, with over €1.3 billion invested in Polish coal companies.

PGE – The dirty darling of the insurance industry

Poland’s PGE plans to build 5,260 MW of new coal power capacity, making it the number one coal power expansionist in Europe44. PGE is already Europe’s second biggest CO2 emitter and operates two of the continent’s most polluting coal plants : Belchatów and Turów. Based on 2015 emissions of all EU coal power plants, PGE is estimated to be the company the most responsible for premature deaths due to air pollution45. PGE is building two 900 MW hard coal units at its Opole power plant and adding 460 MW of capacity to its lignite power plant at Turów. PGE is an active lignite miner with an annual production of 47 million tonnes, 79% of Polish lignite production, with plans to both expand its Turów mine and construct huge new greenfield mines. PGE also recently finalised the acquisition of the Rybnik hard coal power plant from French utility EDF.Despite clear evidence that PGE has no plan to diversify and align its activities with the Paris climate targets, eight insurance companies, all European with the exception of the US insurer MetLife hold shares worth €634 million, 11.7% of the company. Nationale Nederlanden and Aviva (€122 million) are by far the biggest investors, followed by AEGON, AXA, Generali and Allianz. Allianz and Generali have increased their percentage of shares in PGE from 2016 to 2017.

Dirty Business: Insurance companies supporting the growth of Polish coal

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