QBE provides the insurance that coal mines and power stations, oil rigs and gas pipelines need to operate. The company even insures some of Adani’s business in India.
Take action below to ask QBE’s CEO and Board to become our allies in the urgent mission to phase out the fossil fuels causing the climate crisis and extreme weather. As an insurance company, QBE should be protecting its customers, not exposing them to danger.
Join us in calling on QBE to:
- Rule out underwriting any further coal, oil and gas extraction, transportation and infrastructure projects, including Adani Carmichael;
- Divest from fossil fuel assets in its investment portfolio; and
- Advocate publicly and actively for policies that will rapidly reduce carbon emissions and phase out fossil fuel use.
Proudly supporting fossil fuels
QBE has been proud of their support for fossil fuels in the past – demonstrated beautifully by its 2012 annual report cover (see below). They are less public about this support nowadays.
However, a significant part of QBE’s business model remains underwriting large fossil fuel projects. Among the many it has underwritten, you’ll find projects such as the BP Deepwater Horizon and Pemex (which both exploded in the Gulf of Mexico), and the highly polluting Liddell coal-fired power station in NSW.
And then there’s the company’s own investments in coal, oil and gas companies. While QBE refuses to disclose them, it’s likely QBE has significant exposure to fossil fuel assets through its investment portfolio.
The international insurance climate scorecard, released in December 2018, shows QBE as lagging well behind its European competitors on climate action.
Ironically, while it helps prop up the coal, oil and gas industries, QBE pays out hundreds of millions of dollars every year for damage caused by extreme weather events like floods, bushfire and storms, the impacts of which are being made worse by global warming, which is caused by the fossil fuel projects QBE supports! QBE is in a hole, and they’re still digging. The problem is, everyone else is in that hole with them.
From 2010 to 2017, QBE’s cost of large risk claims and catastrophes averaged 11.4% of Net Earned Premium; compared to an average of just 8.1% in the seven years to 2010. This shift shows just how much the changing climate is impacting QBE’s business.
QBE is in a unique position – if it continues to enable the expansion of the fossil fuel industry through underwriting and investing, it will continue to face the increasing cost of extreme weather events. Green-washing will not address climate change nor the inherent risk in its portfolios. Only serious and rapid change to its investment and insuring practices will.
International insurance companies divesting from coal
International insurance companies restricting their underwriting of coal
- Dai-ichi Life Insurance
- Swiss Re
According to Tom Herbstein of Cambridge University’s insurance project ClimateWise, “climate change fundamentally challenges the existing insurance business model.”
In May 2018 concerned shareholders filed a resolution, calling on QBE to disclose the risks it faces as a result of climate change. Insurance companies were singled out for specific and detailed climate risk disclosure recommendations by the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures. The shareholder resolution asked QBE to meet those recommendations.
The resolution, coordinated by Market Forces and co-filed by Local Government Super was considered and voted upon by shareholders at QBE’s annual general meeting on 3 May 2018.
It was backed by 18.6% of shareholders – one of the biggest votes for climate action at an Australian AGM ever. The resolution dominated the meeting as QBE acknowledged it had suffered the financial impact of another horror year for weather catastrophes.
In other good news, QBE also appears to have virtually ruled out any backing for Adani’s climate-destroying Galilee Basin coal mine, at least for now.
While refusing to mention Adani by name, CEO Pat Regan said that QBE generally did not underwrite thermal coal mines in their development phase.
- December 2018 – The 2018 Scorecard on Insurance, Coal and Climate Change gives QBE zero scores for its total absence of policies restricting its investment in and underwriting of thermal coal and tar sands. Market Forces “celebrates” by handing out donuts at QBE’s head office in Sydney.
- November 2018 – Europe’s third biggest insurer, Generali, pledges to stop insuring new coal plants and mines and to refuse new clients which source over 30% of revenue or produce over 30% of power from coal.
- September 2018 – US insurer Lemonade Inc. pledges to never invest in coal and other “major polluters”. They call on their fellow insurers to also end their underwriting of fossil fuels.
- August 2018 – The world’s second-biggest reinsurer MunichRe’s adopted a new policy preventing from doing business with new coal mines or power stations in “industrialised” countries. This means it has ruled itself out of providing reinsurance for Adani’s Carmichael coal project.
- July 2018 – The City and County of San Francisco unanimously passes a resolution to avoid doing business with insurance companies which invest in and insure coal and tar sands companies.
- July 2018 – French insurers Macif and AG2R La Mondiale announce divestment from companies planning new coal-fired power stations.
- July 2018 – Japan’s biggest life insurance company, Nippon Life, announces an end to its funding for coal-fired power stations.
- July 2018 – Swiss Re, the world’s biggest reinsurer, announces it will stop underwriting thermal coal mines, coal-fired power stations or any company that is more than 30% exposed to thermal coal.
- June 2018 – Hannover Re, the third biggest reinsurer worldwide, announces it will exclude coal from its investment portfolio.
- May 2018 – The two largest life insurance companies in Japan announce they are reconsidering their underwriting of coal-fired power stations.
- May 2018 – Shareholder resolution calling on QBE to disclose climate risk achieves one of the highest shareholder votes for a climate resolution in Australia.
- May 2018 – Allianz, the world’s biggest insurance company by assets, announces it will no longer provide stand-alone insurance coverage for coal power plants or coal mines.
- February 2018 – Italian insurer Generali announces plans to divest €2 billion from coal.
- January 2018 – World’s oldest insurance market Lloyd’s of London announces coal divestment due to climate concerns, joining other big UK and European insurance companies, including Aviva, Allianz, Axa, Legal & General, SCOR, Swiss Re and Zurich in ditching coal stocks.
- December 2017 – AXA, one of the world’s largest insurance companies, announced it would divest another Euro 3.1 billion from coal, tar sands and pipeline companies to combat climate change, and would also stop insuring any new coal, tar sands and associated pipeline projects.
- November 2017 – ‘Unfriend Coal’ campaign launches Insurance Scorecard, showing 4 international insurers have restricted coal underwriting (Swiss Re, Zurich, AXA and SCOR).
- February 2017 – APRA Executive Board Member spoke out about the “potentially system-wide” financial risks posed by climate change. According to the regulator, these risks “include the potential exposure of banks and insurers’ balance sheets to real estate impacted by climate change and to re-pricing (or even ‘stranding’) of carbon- intensive assets in other parts of their loan books”. Regulatory guidance has also been provided overseas, with the Bank of England and California state government leading in the area.
- September 2016 – a group of Market Forces volunteers handed out 1000 clap banners to Sydney fans as they headed into the MCG ahead of the team’s preliminary final. Reading “Swans goal” on one side and “QBE quit coal” on the other, the banners were a great way for fans to support their team and call for strong climate action from its major sponsor at the same time.
- May 2016 – Activists gave QBE’s headquarters a colourful new rebranding, illustrating how the insurance company was making climate change possible through its underwriting of major fossil fuel projects. At its AGM later that day, the company faced strong shareholder pressure over its role in the fossil fuel industry.