25 February 2019
Environmental finance campaigning group Market Forces has reacted furiously to QBE’s annual results, which document another year of losses from large catastrophes with no action on climate change.
QBE breathed a sigh of relief as it posted a modest profit in 2018. But the company’s balance sheet continues to be eroded by catastrophe claims, which were again above average for the company’s US, European and Australia and New Zealand operations.
Catastrophe claims amounted to US$523 million in 2018, down on the nightmare $1.2 billion from 2017 but still an increase on 2016 claims. Large individual risk and catastrophe claims totalled $1.16 billion last year, or 10% of the company’s Net Earned Premium. This is again over the average of 8.1% of Net Earned Premium over the seven years to 2011.
The insurer had spent much of 2018 reviewing its investment portfolio as part of a “Climate Change Action Plan”, but despite catastrophes continuing to hit the company’s balance sheet, the plan offered no tangible action to eliminate exposure to fossil fuels. According to the action plan, QBE will continue its activities investing in and underwriting coal, oil and gas industries for at least another two years, before it sets targets in these areas in the 2020 annual report.
Market Forces will next week lodge a shareholder resolution with the company in an attempt to enforce climate change risk management where the company has failed.
Pablo Brait, Market Forces campaigner said: “This so-called “action” plan is really a plan for delay and inaction. Through its investments and underwriting activities, QBE is an active supporter of the coal, oil and gas industries, the industries most responsible for fueling global warming. This “action” plan does nothing to change that, and kicks the can down the road for another two years.”
“QBE has no right to tell anyone to act on global warming while it spends another two years navel gazing before taking tangible action on its support for coal, oil and gas companies. QBE even admits to having exposure to thermal coal in its investment portfolio and won’t do anything about it, unlike many of its competitors which have dumped their coal shares.”
“The urgency of global warming is clear. QBE’s catastrophe claims make that perfectly clear. Even the International Energy Agency has said we can’t build any new fossil fuel infrastructure if we are to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. Yet, while claiming support for the Paris Agreement, QBE will keep helping fossil fuels expand for at least another two years. It is beyond irresponsible from a company that should know better, and continues to expose shareholders to risk,” said Mr Brait.
In 2018 a shareholder resolution calling on QBE to disclose the risks it faces due to climate change received 18.6% of the vote. It was viewed as a strong call for climate risk disclosure at the time, but today’s annual results release keeps investors in the dark about the long-term risks their capital faces while invested in QBE.
“QBE’s actions are derisory to shareholders who last year supported climate risk disclosure. Now it’s the shareholders’ turn. Will they be content with being kept in the dark about the climate risks their capital faces while invested in QBE? We’ll find out at their AGM in May,” said Mr Brait.
For more information and comment, please contact:
Pablo Brait, Market Forces Campaigner
James Lorenz, Market Forces Communications Adviser
Find out more about Market Forces’ QBE campaign here.