Climate campaigners urge Japanese underwriters to reject coal risks

Activists staged a protest outside the AGM of Tokio Marine yesterday after MS&AD became the first of Japan’s big three insurers to pledge an end to the insurance of new coal projects.

As Lloyd’s saw the launch of a new insurance task force on climate change on Friday MS&AD is tightening the wording of its sustainability policy over the insurance of coal powered related operations.

In September 2020, MS&AD adopted a statement on sustainable business activities according to which the insurer “in principle, will not underwrite or invest in new coal-fired power plants” unless deemed necessary for a “stable energy supply of the country concerned.”

However campaigners said the policy’s language “left the door wide open” for supporting coal power companies and insuring coal projects around the world. The new policy has now removed this loophole. It however still does not exclude insurance cover for new coal mine projects and for some power plants which are already in the pipeline.

By adopting a policy to no longer insure or invest in new coal power plants, becoming the first Japanese insurer to make this move. The policy follows on the heels of similar announcements by four Korean insurers on last week.

Campaigners said the move increasingly isolates Tokio Marine, Japan’s biggest insurer in the power sector, and its smaller rival Sompo, as some of the world’s last remaining coal insurers.

Yuki Tanabe, Program Director at the Japan Centre for a Sustainable Environment and Society (JACSES), said: “We welcome MS&AD’s announcement to completely end insurance underwriting for new coal-fired power generation projects, and urge other Japanese non-life insurers, such as Tokio Marine and Sompo, to establish similar policies immediately.”

Peter Bosshard, Global Coordinator of the Insure Our Future campaign, said: “Even if it has serious limitations, MS&AD’s new coal policy is an important initial step in the right direction. Along with the policies adopted by Korean insurers, MS&AD’s move shows that the coal exit train has now reached the Asian insurance industry and that the coal projects which are still in the pipeline have no future.

Yesterday as Tokio Marine held its Annual General Meeting in Tokyo, Japanese shareholders were greeted by a group of concerned civil society activists urging the company to stop lagging behind its peers internationally and at home. Campaigners called on Tokio Marine to stop being a global coal insurer of last resort.

Bosshard added. “With COP26 around the corner, Tokio Marine and Sompo as well as Chinese insurers like Ping An and PICC need to join the international trend in adopting coal exit policies so they no longer undermine the progress made by their peers. All insurance companies need to follow the science, accept the conclusions of the International Energy Agency’s recent 1.5C report and end all cover for new coal, oil and gas projects and related infrastructure. Aligning their business with a credible 1.5C pathway is an imperative, not an option,”

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