Taking firm steps on climate change to shape a more resilient tomorrow
We buy insurance for our homes, our cars, our health, our business and many other things to protect what we care about. But now the whole planet is in danger – unfortunately, our own analysis suggests that the likelihood of missing the Paris Agreement’s target of limiting global warming to 2ºC or below is higher than achieving it. This means we all will be facing the physical consequences of the warming planet. That is why today we’re making a broad commitment to help facilitate – if not accelerate – the generational shift to a low-carbon economy.
At Zurich, being a responsible and sustainable company is at the foundation of our business. We help our customers and communities become more resilient to natural disasters and extreme weather; we make a difference through our responsible investment approach; and we are swiftly reducing our own carbon footprint. We are working closely with communities and policy-makers to place more emphasis on risk reduction, preparedness and resilience rather than purely focusing on recovery and rebuilding. We are also sharing with our customers the best practices and other risk-related insights developed during our 140-year history.
Using our core insurance skills to respond to some of the most significant long-term societal and environmental trends, we identified climate change as perhaps the most complex risk facing society today. It is inter-generational, it is international and it is interdependent. Representing the consensus of the international scientific community, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finds strong evidence that climate change is occurring, that it is influenced by human action, and that it is leading to changes in extreme weather and climate events.
We already offer products and services to help manage the risks related to climate change. Zurich covers many renewable energy construction projects around the world. For example, we insure ’Desert Sunlight’, the building of one of the largest solar power projects in California, as well as ‘Xina Solar One’ and Ashalim – solar thermal power plants in South Africa and Israel. In Italy, Germany and Switzerland, Zurich provides customized coverage for private home owners and small to mid-size commercial companies to build renewable energy facilities, such as photovoltaic, solar thermal, biomass and geothermal installations.
Despite the many good example of renewable energy projects, it is not enough. Our own analysis suggests that the likelihood of missing the Paris Agreement’s target of limiting global warming to 2ºC or below is higher than achieving it. The insurance industry needs to do whatever possible to support transition to renewable energy and fulfill the Paris Agreement’s promise. That is why we are taking further actions to facilitate – if not accelerate – the generational shift to a low-carbon economy. We will:
1. Work with clients as well as public and private partners to enhance resilience and prevent, or minimize, damage and harm from weather and climate-related perils for our customers and communities.
2. Develop insurance and risk management solutions for the new technologies, business models and approaches that will be required to achieve this unprecedented transition to a low-carbon economy.
3. Integrate assessments of both physical and transition risks into our investment strategies and contribute to avoiding 5 million tons of CO2 emissions annually through our dedicated impact investments.
5. Disengage and divest from those whose activities are predominantly focused on thermal coal if these companies have no plan to realign their business over time towards a low-carbon future. See our detailed position on thermal coal here.
6. Publically advocate for policies that encourage the private sector to fully leverage capabilities and resources in support of the transition to a global low-carbon economy, including:
- A global price on carbon, established at a level sufficiently high over time to incentivize action aligned with below-2ºC warming.
- A clear roadmap for the progressive phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies.
- Credible policy roadmaps for internationally integrated energy policies, systems, markets and electricity grids capable of handling large scale use of renewable energies.
- Policies in support of both public and private research and development of critical technologies such as energy storage, electric mobility, renewable power and carbon capture and storage (CCS).
- Integrating key aspects of climate change, alongside other environmental, social and governance issues, in public and private education and curricula.
- Enhanced transparency by mandating better disclosure of climate risks, alongside other environmental, social and governance issues.
7. Adopt the recommendations of the Financial Stability Board’s Task force on Climate Change-related Financial Disclosure (FSB-TCFD) and report on progress made in implementing the above commitments.
We acknowledge that our actions must be compatible with Zurich’s broader strategic and financial objectives and reflect the real-world operating environment driven by client demand and bound by public policy. We will continue working with customers to better manage climate risks; providing coverage for new technologies and infrastructure, such as electric vehicles, renewable energy or carbon capture and storage; investing in companies and assets that support the transition to a low-carbon economy; and – if and when possible – putting a price on climate risks when making investment or underwriting decisions.
Over the coming decades a changing climate, and society’s reaction to it, will have transformational effects. Navigating this transformation will require us to be firm in our beliefs, leverage our knowledge about the risks involved, and do what we can to help society mitigate, and adapt to, climate change.