First insurer refuses cover for pipeline project

Climate campaigners and NGOs have welcomed insurer Axa’s decision to become the first underwriter to commit to refusing to provide cover for a controversial oil project.

Lat month NGOs wrote to the world’s major insurers and brokers to urge them not to participate in the tender for insurance coverage for TotalEnergies’ controversial East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline project.

In response AXA has confirmed that it would not be involved and said that the “project is not compatible with [their] risk appetite and, more broadly, with [their] climate commitments.”

AXA’s statement came after NGO members of the #StopEACOP Alliance sent letters to five brokers and six re/insurers asking them to publicly commit to steer clear of the oil pipeline project. Several weeks ago, TOTAL East Africa Midstream B.V., a subsidiary of French oil giant TotalEnergies, published a tender for re/insurance brokerage services for the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP).

Lucie Pinson, Founder and Director at Reclaim Finance, said: “We warmly welcome this decision, which comes as a fresh blow for TotalEnergies and its polluting oil pipeline project. If the oil and gas major needed new evidence that the EACOP project is toxic, this is it: none of the top French financial institutions want to put a stamp on it. It’s also particularly encouraging that AXA says the project is not aligned with their climate commitment. We hope that EACOP is only the first of a long list of new oil and gas projects that AXA says no to. That would mean they take their net zero pledge seriously and are committed to go beyond climate rhetoric to truly align their oil and gas policy with the Paris climate agreement.”

AXA is the chair of the net zero insurance alliance which brings together insurers committed to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. The recent International Energy Agency net zero scenario, alongside comment António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations at the Insurance Development Forum Summit called for the global insurance industry to end underwriting of new fossil fuel projects.

David Pred, Executive Director of Inclusive Development International, said: “We applaud AXA for demonstrating climate leadership. At the same time we appeal to Allianz, SCOR, Munich Re, Swiss Re, and Zurich to follow AXA’s lead and do the right thing. As members of the Net-Zero Insurance Alliance and purported climate leaders, these companies have no excuse for staying silent.  It is time for each of them to publicly commit that they will not support EACOP or its associated oil extraction projects, and instead support the transition to an inclusive, sustainable and decarbonized economy.”

France’s leading three banks BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole and Société Générale, along with Barclays, Credit Suisse, UniCredit and ANZ have committed not to finance the EACOP project.

The construction of the pipeline, which would stretch 1,445 kilometres from Uganda to Tanzania, is essential for the exploitation of newly discovered oil reserves in the Great Lakes region.

Campaigners warn in addition to accelerating the climate crisis, the project threatens many protected environments, forests, wetlands and mangroves, as well as the livelihoods of local communities.

“Over 100,000 people across Uganda and Tanzania will lose the land they rely on for farming and animal raising, and many will be forcibly removed from their homes. Communities along the pipeline route are already suffering from restricted access to their land to grow crops,” said Inclusive development International.

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AXA’s statement came after NGO members of the #StopEACOP Alliance sent letters to five brokers and six re/insurers asking them to publicly commit to steer clear of the oil pipeline project.

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