Washington, D.C., 28 September 2023 – Leading European insurers are underwriting nearly a third of U.S. coal production despite their net zero commitments, reveals a new report released today by Insure Our Future.
Lloyd’s of London, Zurich and Swiss Re are among the top ten insurers of the 25 biggest U.S. mines, which produced more than 60% of the country’s coal in 2022. They underwrite 13 mines producing 30.7% of national output.
Coal is the largest contributor of carbon dioxide emissions, and the U.S. is the fourth largest producer of coal worldwide, mining 595 million short tons in 2022 alone.
In response to global pressure and targeted campaigning from Insure Our Future and other networks, 45 major insurers have adopted policies restricting coal underwriting in recent years. However, the report finds that leading insurers are exploiting loopholes or violating their own policies to continue underwriting coal mines.
AIG is the biggest underwriter of U.S. coal, insuring seven mines producing 167 million short tons in 2022, 28.1% of national output. Lloyd’s of London comes second, with Lloyd’s insurers underwriting 10 mines producing 135 million short tons, 22.8% of output. As the world’s biggest insurance marketplace, Lloyd’s has committed to leading the market to a net-zero underwriting position, yet it does not mandate or restrict the underwriting policies of its market members.
Zurich insures two mines producing 4.9% of U.S. output and Swiss Re insures one mine producing 3% of output. Both have been leaders in introducing restrictions on insuring coal and were founder members of the Net Zero Insurance Alliance, but have recently left under threat of anti-trust action.
“This damning report perfectly illustrates the problem: insurers are publicly committing to net zero emissions and restrictive fossil fuel policies, yet behind closed doors they continue to underwrite dirty fossil fuel projects, violating their own policies or exploiting loopholes. They are fuelling the climate crisis and profiting from it, while greenwashing their business with empty promises.”
“Lloyd’s is exposed yet again as a leading insurer of the fossil fuels that are causing the climate crisis. CEO John Neal, who claims Lloyd’s is a sustainability leader, seems motivated only by how much money he and Lloyd’s can make from the climate disasters they help to create. He should be ashamed of his hypocrisy. Neal, and those Lloyd’s members involved in insuring fossil fuels with no restrictions or phase out plans, are accomplices in climate crimes.
“Others Lloyd’s members, managers, staff and investors need to step up, alongside civil society, and help to persuade their peers and John Neal to firmly commit to stop insuring all coal mining in OECD countries by 2030, and to reduce their coverage of coal by 50% by 2025, in-line with the action taken by other leading insurers, as directed by climate science.”
Covering Coal: The Top Insurers of U.S. Coal Mining is based on public record requests for insurance certificates. Because they only cover the top 25 producing mines individual insurers may well be underwriting a greater percentage of U.S. coal production.
The report finds that several insurance companies, including Swiss Re, are violating their own coal restriction policies. Swiss Re’s policy states that it will not insure companies earning more than 30% of revenue from coal, and yet 90% of the revenue earned by the Buckskin Mining Company, owners of the Swiss Re-insured Buckskin Mine, comes from coal.
Others, including Zurich, are exploiting policy loopholes to allow them to continue insuring major metallurgical coal mines. Metallurgical coal, used for making steel and a significant source of carbon dioxide, is a blind spot in many restriction policies which only refer to thermal coal. Zurich’s ongoing insurance of metallurgical coal mines does not directly violate its own policy, but stands in contradiction to its stated net-zero commitments.
The One Earth Climate Model’s sectoral pathway, commissioned by the Net Zero Asset Owners Alliance, states that for global warming to stay within a 1.5°C limit, emissions from coal combustion need to fall by 49% by 2025, 79% by 2030, and 100% by 2050, from 2019 levels. Despite this stark warning, global coal production reached an all-time high in 2022.
Many of the insurers mentioned in the report also provide homeowners and small business coverage. However, fear of major financial losses amid increasing numbers of climate-related natural disasters has seen insurers withdrawing from climate-affected regions – in some cases entire U.S. states – or drastically raising premiums, leaving home and business owners extremely vulnerable. They include AIG, Liberty Mutual and Farmers Insurance Group (a company affiliated with Zurich Insurance Group).
 A short ton is a measurement unit equal to 2,000 pounds (907.18 kg), commonly used in the U.S.
- The insurers are listed below, alongside the total production for which they are responsible.
|Production (short tons)||Mine Count
|Underwriters at Lloyd’s of London||135,403,277||10|
*The ‘Insurer’ column refers to companies by brand names.
- While multiple insurers sometimes provide coverage for the same mine, the total production of each mine was attributed to each insurer that provided coverage during the period of 2022. Because this sample only covers the top 25 producing mines, individual insurers may well be underwriting a greater percentage of U.S. coal production.
- Due to a lack of transparency across the industry, the information presented in the report was gathered via a series of public record requests for insurance certificates. The top 25 producing mines were selected for analysis, representing more than 60% of total U.S. coal production.
- The public record data was analysed by Insure Our Future partner, Reclaim Finance.