Generali and Vienna Insurance Group (VIG) have signed a 365,000 euro contract to insure a recently finished 660MW coal power plant in the Czech Republic, undermining international action to tackle climate change and clean up Europe’s air, the Insure Our Future campaign revealed today.
Coal is the biggest single source of CO2 emissions. No new coal plants can be built and at least 59% of all coal power must be phased out by 2030 to meet the Paris climate target of limiting global warming to 1.5C, according to the latest report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
"It’s a huge shame that Generali has got into bed with CEZ, one of Europe’s most aggressive coal developers, at a time when Europe should be closing down coal. We have been calling Generali to stop underwriting coal and we will maintain pressure on the company until it adopts a strict policy that supports a 1.5C target in line with the IPCC report.”
The Ledvice power plant burns lignite, the dirtiest form of coal, and the new block will have a lifespan of 40 years. It is operated by Czech majority state-owned power utility CEZ and has been running on a trial basis for one year.
According to information published on CEZ’s public tendering page, Generali will provide property insurance with co-insurer Vienna Insurance Group, both through their Czech-based subsidiaries. VIG, who is also bidding to underwrite a 1000 MW hardcoal power plant in Poland, is trying to play an increasing role in underwriting coal in Europe as major insurers pull out.
"Insurers Generali and Vienna Insurance Group just insured a Czech coal plant, signaling that they're not ready to end coal and protect hundreds of thousands of lives from the impacts of coal-related air pollution and climate change. They will continue to face public pressure unless they finally choose to protect people over coal profits."
International NGOs supporting the Insure Our Future campaign wrote to the CEOs of 17 leading insurers in July calling on them to refuse to insure the Ledvice plant.
"Ledvice threatens Europe's capacity to implement the Paris Agreement and will increase the human toll linked to burning coal. Unless Generali and VIG adopt a strong policy ruling out all support for coal ahead of COP24, the Insure Our Future campaign and its partners will relentlessly target them.”
More than 90,000 people signed petitions calling on Generali to end support for coal ahead of its AGM this year. In February, Generali announced plans to divest €2 billion from coal, but it failed to make any commitments to restrict underwriting.
CEZ is active in the coal sectors of the Czech Republic, Poland and Bulgaria. It produces 21 million tonnes of coal a year, owns 6,462MW of coal-fired power capacity (47% of its total generation) and has plans to build 770MW of new coal power. CEZ coal plants are estimated to have caused 800 premature deaths across Europe in 2015.