Source: Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis
The Indian conglomerate Adani Group is trying to move forward with plans to build a massive coal mine in the Galilee Basin in Queensland (Australia). This project has been the object of years-long controversy in Australia and around the world. The toxicity of Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine – not just environmentally and socially, but reputationally as well – has made the project a base test of credibility for any global financial institution wanting to be taken seriously as a climate change risk manager.
To date, over three dozen financial institutions have made commitments to not finance the project, and after spending nearly a decade in search of the funds, Adani finally announced in November 2018 that it had secured the billions of dollars necessary to build the mine. Who was the mysterious investor? Turns out it was the Adani Group itself. You can only imagine how desperate a company would need to be before committing to fund a project requiring billions of dollars off its own balance sheet after a years-long search for an investor.
But the campaign over Adani’s Carmichael mine is far from over. Insurance is one area where Adani also needs financial support. In fact, insurance is a critical piece required to obtain government permits and start construction, and a growing campaign targeting insurers to accelerate the transition to a clean energy future has taken note.
In December 2018, the Global Unfriend Coal campaign and allies – representing 73 organisations and a combined membership of more than 76 million people – sent a letter calling on 35 major global insurers to not insure the proposed Carmichael coal mine and associated infrastructure. Given the number of responses that were received within two weeks of sending the letter, the insurance industry is clearly feeling the pressure to avoid highly controversial coal projects.
10 companies immediately responded to Unfriend Coal’s call to not insure the project, either explicitly stating their refusal to be involved or referencing existing coal restriction policies that applied in this case. These included the world’s biggest insurers and reinsurers, Allianz, AXA, Swiss Re and Munich Re; two of Australia’s largest infrastructure insurers, QBE and Suncorp; the first major US insurer to publicly rule out a coal project, FM Global; as well as major European insurers Generali, Zurich and SCOR. Since then, two additional companies have announced restrictions on coal underwriting that would rule out involvement with the mine: Mapfre and Uniqa.
For the insurers that have not yet ruled out supporting Adani, the pressure is now building. Last month, lawyers at ClientEarth wrote to Lloyd’s warning them of the financial risks surrounding the project and warning: “Should you or your syndicates fail to take these factors into account as part of your risk management processes, this may constitute a breach of your legal duties.”