Peter Bosshard

1st June 2018

P31 quickfire istock 166083797

Related Topics



Unfriend Coal’s campaign coordinator, Peter Bosshard, talks exclusively to TRANSFORM about the insurance industry’s progress in cutting its ties with coal

Why is it so important for the insurance industry to move away from coal?

Climate science tells us we need to stop building new coal power plants and phase out existing coal infrastructure as quickly as possible. There is no silver bullet to achieve that, but insurers are critical actors as underwriters and investors. If they do not provide coverage then projects will have to shut down, and, unlike other actors, insurers are aware of the climate risks facing society because they have warned about them for decades.

How do you rate the industry’s progress in shunning fossil fuels?

We have seen relatively rapid momentum, firstly on the divestment side, but more importantly with underwriting. Some of the biggest actors – particularly in Europe – are moving away from coal, including AXA and Allianz, and we are expecting similar things from Swiss Re and Zurich. But we still see important laggards in Europe, such as Munich Re and others, and there is no progress in the US. We need to do a lot more work in America and we plan to.

What do you think is driving that shift?

When it comes to underwriting, I think it is mainly the reputational costs. It is an unacceptable position to warn about climate risks and keep on insuring coal – customers and staff will not stand for it. Most insurance professionals take pride in being on the right side of climate change and being part of the solution. On the divestment side, it helps that there is a strong argument for the financial risks of supporting coal, as it is in the interests of investors to move away from it.

“It is unacceptable to warn about climate risks and keep insuring coal”

So what can be done to accelerate progress?

We need to, of course, keep up public pressure, and there also needs to be a campaign set up in the US. Brokers need to do more, but it is the regulators that can really help spur action. The Prudential Regulation Authority in the UK has played an important role highlighting climate risks to the insurance industry, but other regulators have been slower to recognise them, so they also need to get in on the act.

But if these insurers understand the financial and environmental risks, why are there still so many laggards in the US?

Unfortunately, they continue to think in the short-term, and make a business out of that – I think some do not value their brand enough. In the US, many companies still believe that anything not directly business related is outside their responsibility. Which is really an outdated understanding of the role of business. Responsible companies know they have to do the right thing, and we need strict government regulations to resolve the problem.

Will there be a cut-off point where coal becomes uninsurable and all insurers just stop providing coverage?

Well, with the shrinking carbon budget for the planet, hopefully the sooner the better. I am confident that in 2018 we will make progress with the European laggards and will make a dent in the availability of coal insurance, at least in terms of price. If more of the big actors move out and it is just the specialist companies involved, insuring coal will become a lot more expensive. I am also confident that by the end of next year we will get US insurers on board, and reach critical mass, and largely make coal uninsurable.

Is the Unfriend Coal campaign targeting asset managers, banks, pension funds and other institutional investors?

Unfriend Coal is focusing on the insurance sector, but other organisations behind the campaign – like Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and 350 – have been focusing on banks, pension funds, government regulators and utility companies. Insurers think they are being singled out, but they should recognise that they are late to the party. I am really excited about the momentum at the moment and think we will see further progress soon.


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

A social conscience

With a Taskforce on Inequality and Social-related Financial Disclosures in the pipeline, Beth Knight talks to Chris Seekings about increased recognition of social sustainability

6th June 2024

Read more

Disinformation about the impossibility of averting the climate crisis is part of an alarming turn in denialist tactics, writes David Burrows

6th June 2024

Read more

David Symons, FIEMA, director of sustainability at WSP, and IEMA’s Lesley Wilson, tell Chris Seekings why a growing number of organisations are turning to nature-based solutions to meet their climate goals

6th June 2024

Read more

A system-level review is needed to deliver a large-scale programme of retrofit for existing buildings. Failure to do so will risk missing net-zero targets, argues Amanda Williams

31st May 2024

Read more

Chris Seekings reports from a webinar helping sustainability professionals to use standards effectively

31st May 2024

Read more

Although many organisations focus on scope 1 and 2 emissions, it is vital to factor in scope 3 emissions and use their footprint to drive business change

31st May 2024

Read more

IEMA submits response to the Future Homes Standard consultation

31st May 2024

Read more

What is the role for nature in the Climate Change Act? Sophie Mairesse reports

20th May 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close