US insurance commissioner rejects calls for climate-related financial disclosures

24th April 2019

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Maxine Holden

Californian insurance commissioner Ricardo Lara yesterday rejected a petition from more than 60 public interest groups calling on insurers to disclose their fossil fuel business.

In his rebuttal of the petition, Lara explained how climate-related financial disclosures only target a “single element of the much broader challenge of climate risk“.

Instead, the commissioner outlined how he would pursue a “much more comprehensive climate strategy“ that includes incentives for climate-smart investments.

However, Consumer Watchdog said this allows insurers to keep their complicity in global warming secret, and puts the brakes on progress made by the previous Department of Insurance.

Executive director, Carmen Balber, said: “By refusing to acknowledge the insurance industry's role in global warming, he's abdicating California's leadership role in combating climate change.

“Every new scientific study finds the climate threat is more urgent than the last. In denying this petition, Lara denies that urgency in favour of more talk with the industry.“

The petition had called on insurers to reveal all their investments in “fossil fuel-related entities“, along with all the polluting companies and projects they underwrite or insure.

This would have applied to 1,300 insurers – the largest market in the US – and comes after Californian wildfires caused an estimated $13bn (£10bn) of insured losses last November.

The California Department of Insurance currently requires the disclosure of fossil fuel-related investments by companies writing more than $100m in premiums.

However, this excludes half of the insurance companies in California, and the department has not required insurers to disclose fossil fuel underwriting or to divest from the sector.

“Lara's decision not to pursue common sense disclosure is a gift to those insurance companies which continue to underwrite coal, oil and gas,“ said Greenpeace USA executive director, Annie Leonard.

“Lara has decided that the profits of a handful of irresponsible insurance companies are more important than the fight against dangerous climate change.“

Image credit: iStock


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