Climate campaigners call on Axa to exit oil and gas

Campaigners from the Insure Our Future coalition, Reclaim Finance and SumofUs are calling out Axa ahead of the forthcoming COP26 summit in Glasgow for failing to take climate leadership on and ruling out oil and gas insurance.

With a full-page advertisement in the Financial Times, an open letter, and a global petition, climate campaigners are calling on Thomas Buberl, the CEO of Axa, to make the underwriter immediately stop insuring new oil and gas projects.

In its flagship report, the World Energy Outlook, the International Energy Agency said last week that “no fossil fuel exploration is required and no new oil and natural gas fields are required beyond those that have already been approved for development” in a net-zero emissions scenario.

Axa is understood to be currently preparing an oil and gas policy and is expected to present it at the Climate Finance Day in Paris on 26 October.

Lucie Pinson, the executive director of Reclaim Finance, said:  “Axa’s CEO, Thomas Buberl, has a clear choice to make: either immediately stop insuring all new oil and gas projects, including liquefied natural gas terminals, or default on its net-zero pledge. With COP26 fast approaching, he must commit to phase out insurance to companies engaged in the development of new oil and gas infrastructure by 2023, at the latest.”

The campaign groups said that Axa is still among the biggest insurers of the oil and gas industry, and has yet to rule out Gasunie’s proposed Brunsbuttel LNG terminal.

Additionally, Insure Our Future said that forthcoming research shows that Axa continues to insure the exploration of huge oil and gas reserves, including in fragile ecosystems near the mouth of the Amazon River which are home to blue whales, manatees and other threatened species.

Despite such criticism, the insurer is very much alive to the threat posed by climate change. Indeed, Axa’s latest risk report said that climate change was viewed as the number one threat by risk managers across the world.

The report found the threat from climate change has overtaken the COVID pandemic as the biggest risk in the eighth issue of the insurer’s Future Risks Report which polled over 23,000 people globally.

The study measured and ranked the evolution of the perception of emerging risks as seen by a panel of risk management experts as well as by public opinion.

The frequency and severity of extreme flood events is expected to increase across Western and Central Europe along the 21st century, according to another recent study by Axa.

The study, 2021 European Summer Floods: A warning about the climate-induced increase in flood risk? suggests that in order to mitigate the devastating consequences of these events, the increase in flood risk should be tackled proactively by integrating and continuously updating land use management plans and flood protection strategies, in order to limit the flood exposure and the flood hazard.

Peter Bosshard, coordinator of the Insure Our Future campaign, said: “Climate scientists agree that the planet cannot afford any new oil and gas projects. AXA’s climate leadership is on the line. Thomas Buberl needs to follow the science and rule out any support for new oil and gas projects, now.”

Axa was unavailable for comment.

The campaign groups said that Axa is still among the biggest insurers of the oil and gas industry, and has yet to rule out Gasunie’s proposed Brunsbuttel LNG terminal.

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