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The All Blacks and AIG’s Moment of Truth in the Adani Project

The All Blacks are the world’s most successful rugby team and a symbol of New Zealand’s national pride. They are also the favorite with the bookies to win this year’s Rugby World Cup, which starts in Japan later this week.

The All Blacks invited controversy in 2012 when they allowed US insurance company AIG to become the first sponsor ever to put their logo at the center of their jerseys, for an undisclosed amount. AIG is celebrating the upcoming World Cup with a punchy video ad under the motto #TackletheRisk. 

AIG, alas, is one of the few large insurance companies which continues to cover the construction of climate-destroying coal projects. According to the Australian Financial Review (AFR), the insurer is providing groundworks and directors & officers (D&O) insurance for the Adani Group’s gigantic proposed Carmichael coal mine in Australia. Developing and exploiting the mine would produce 4.6 billion tonnes of CO² over the lifetime of the project and would open up even larger mines in Queensland’s Galilee Basin for exploitation.

The Adani Group is currently looking to arrange insurance cover for the construction of the multi-billion dollar project and is trying to renew the D&O policy for one of its Australian subsidiaries by the end of September. The AFR reports that AIG’s head office has spoken out against renewing the D&O contract. Yet even after receiving a petition from SumOfUs signed by 135,000 people, AIG has so far not excluded insuring Adani Australia or the Carmichael Project. 

The reputation of the Adani mine has become increasingly toxic in recent years and months. Numerous companies – including insurance companies, banks, railway and engineering firms from around the world – have refused to get involved in the mining project (even if not with the Adani Group more generally) under massive public pressure. In August, Engineers Without Borders even canceled their sponsorship contract with the engineering consultancy GHD after the company got involved with the coal project. 

According to a recent opinion poll, 79% of all New Zealanders are personally worried about climate change. The Aotearoa government is part of the Powering Past Coal Alliance, and last month its parliament tabled a landmark bill that would make the country carbon-neutral by 2050. 

The All Blacks perform the Haka, a traditional Maori war dance, before each game and several of their players are of Pacific islander heritage. How will they feel if their sponsor props up a gigantic carbon bomb that will bring yet more destruction to the Pacific islands?

Earlier this week, the climate campaigners of 350 Aotearoa launched a petition calling on the All Blacks to “drop AIG until AIG drops Adani”. As the team reaches for its fourth World Cup title, the US insurer will create a major embarrassment if it gets caught red-handed in the Adani Project in one way or another. Will AIG see the signs of the time and publicly rule out support for the mine and its developer?

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