Campaigners pledge to ramp up pressure on Chubb and Liberty Mutual to follow suit
JULY 22, 2020 – Reuters reported that Swiss insurance giant Zurich will stop providing coverage for the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline when its policy expires on August 31. Zurich is currently Trans Mountain’s primary excess liability insurer, putting it on the hook for the first $8 million in insurance payouts for the existing pipeline. Trans Mountain is now forced to search for a new primary insurer.
The existing 70-year old Trans Mountain pipeline is a major environmental and public health hazard, with a long history of disastrous spills. The Trans Mountain Expansion Project, which has faced powerful Indigenous-led resistance for years, would multiply these risks.
“Zurich has done the right thing by refusing to insure the Trans Mountain pipeline any longer. Hopefully Liberty Mutual and the other companies insuring it do the right thing before the end of August and drop it too,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President, Union of BC Indian Chiefs. “Any company insuring Trans Mountain is complicit in violations of Indigenous Rights, because the proposed pipeline expansion does not have the consent of all impacted First Nations along the route.”
Zurich’s decision comes on the heels of an announcement earlier this month from German insurer Talanx that it will drop the project in light of a recently-adopted policy on oil sands. Both statements also follow pressure from a global coalition of First Nations, climate organizations, and grassroots activists that have been targeting insurers to cut ties with the existing pipeline and the expansion for years.
“Since 2014 Tsleil-Waututh Nation (TWN) has been meeting with Trans Mountain’s shareholders, financiers, ratings agencies and insurers to discuss the multitude of risks facing this project, which have resulted in TWN withholding our free, prior, and informed consent,” said Charlene Aleck, Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sacred Trust Initiative. “Zurich is the third insurance company to do the right thing, and we hope that Lloyds, Chubb, Liberty Mutual and the other insurers will follow their lead. Insurers cannot afford to be climate deniers; they are already paying for the devastating impacts of climate change.”
In June 2019, Zurich committed to aligning its business with a 1.5°C pathway and adopted a policy ruling out insurance for oil sands extraction and transportation companies. Despite the policy, Zurich refused to drop Trans Mountain in August 2019, while engaging with the Canadian government to determine if the pipeline fit into Canada’s plans to reduce emissions.
“The Trans Mountain pipeline puts communities, the climate, and billions of dollars in Canadian taxpayers’ money at risk. Zurich’s decision to walk away from the pipeline just underlines how risky this project has become,” said Sven Biggs, Canadian Oil and Gas Program Director at Stand.earth. “It’s time for the Trudeau government to take another look at this project and ask if this is the right time to spend over $10 billion on a pipeline that is rapidly losing the support of the financial sector.”
Following the news that Zurich will no longer back the project, campaigners are turning their focus to the pipeline’s remaining insurers, specifically U.S.-based Liberty Mutual and Chubb, with whom the coalition is currently attempting to engage in dialogue around the pipeline’s risks.
“Zurich’s decision to drop Trans Mountain demonstrates that it’s waking up the risks of this toxic project to Indigenous land rights, local ecosystems, and the planet,” said Elana Sulakshana, Energy Finance Campaigner at Rainforest Action Network. “Some of Zuirch’s peers in the global insurance industry are also taking note, as eight companies now have policies that limit or end insurance coverage for tar sands. It’s way past time for Liberty Mutual and Chubb to follow suit.”
The shift of capital out of the oil sands is not unique to the insurance industry, as a growing number of investors, banks, and asset managers flee the sector, particularly as prices drop in the midst of a global pandemic. MetLife, one of the largest life insurers in the U.S., recently adopted a policy restricting investments in oil sands companies.
Anna Doty, Director of the Stand Up To Oil coalition said:
“For too long, the fossil fuel industry has forced our communities to bear the brunt of their dangerous, toxic projects. Zuirch’s decision to drop Trans Mountain finally recognizes that this project would come at an immeasurable and unacceptable cost to Indigenous rights, the Salish Sea, and our climate. We will continue to stand with First Nations in opposition to the Trans Mountain Pipeline and call on Liberty Mutual and all remaining insurers of the project to stop backing this destructive industry.”
Asti Roesle, Senior Campaigner at Greenpeace Switzerland said:
“Zurich’s decision to drop the Trans Mountain pipeline shows that engagement with the pipeline’s owner – the Canadian government – does not lead anywhere. This project violates Indigenous rights, climate action and our future. It simply should not exist. This is a clear signal for fellow Swiss-based insurer Chubb to follow suit and not risk their social license by remaining in this project.”
Cherry Tsoi, Senior Campaigner with Leadnow, said:
“Zurich dropping this destructive tar sands project means they’ve seen the writing on the wall for projects guilty of climate pollution and the trampling of Indigenous rights — there’s no room for them in our clean energy future. Trans Mountain’s other insurers should take Zurich’s lead and drop the pipeline before the costs of supporting Trans Mountain far outweigh the gains.”
Chris Wilke of Waterkeeper Alliance said:
“Zurich’s decision to pull out of Trans Mountain sends an important message to all insurers and investors – It is time to stop investing in dirty fuels of the past and join the movement to shift to a clean energy future. Our climate, our waterways and our communities must not be forced to endure this toxic destruction for much longer.”
Victoria Leistman, Organizer with Sierra Club said:
“We are thrilled to see Zurich’s announcement to pull out of the Trans Mountain pipeline project. This is a testament to the strength of First Nations’ leadership and a strong regional coalition that has been fighting this dangerous tar sand pipeline from the start. It’s time for US insurers like Liberty Mutual to read the writing on the wall and get out of TMX, and all tar sands.”