Zurich Insurance Group said it will be taking further, deeper steps to help curb carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement’s goals to limit global warming.
Targets will include its own internal operations, companies it invests in and businesses it insures.
“Our role as an insurer is to protect people and climate change is the greatest risk there is,” Zurich Group CEO Mario Greco said in prepared remarks. “We are using our influence as a global insurer and investor to drive deep cuts in emissions, because working with others is where we can make the biggest impact.”
The Swiss insurer has operated as a carbon neutral company since 2014, and noted it has demonstrated accountability for emissions since it began to measure them in 2007. Zurich said its new, more rigorous goals fulfill and build on its commitments as a founding member of the UN Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance, through which the insurer committed to holding a net-zero investment portfolio by 2050.
Zurich said it will use its influence as an investor and insurer to press for change. That means, for example, requiring the companies it invests in to have climate targets aligned with the Paris Agreement, which would limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It is also setting climate targets for its operations, and said it will pursue development of “industry-wide methodologies to measure emissions from insurance underwriting.”
Among its more immediate goals are a 25 percent cut in carbon intensity planned for listed equity and corporate bond investments by 2025. The company is aiming for a 30 percent carbon cut for direct real estate investments over the same period.
As well, Zurich has a goal of cutting carbon emissions from operations by 50 percent by 2025 and 70 percent by 2029.
The company also said it will work to influence others “as an investor and insurer” to press for further change, urging companies it invests in to set their own carbon emissions targets meeting the Paris Agreement.
Already on the Way
Zurich already refrains from investing in companies that have more than a 30 percent revenue/electricity mix from thermal coal, oil shales and oil sands, and noted it has divested nearly $500 million in investments under this policy. Through its Impact Investing, Zurich has also helped to avoid 2.9 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.
As well, Zurich won’t underwrite companies with a more than 30 percent revenue/electricity mix from thermal coal, oil shales and oil sands. Through this policy, the company said it has not renewed $33 million in premiums, and it is aiming to “play a leading role in the development of industry-wide standards” on how to measure emissions from insurance.
The Next Two years
Zurich said it will push for better climate practices from companies it works with or invests in over the next two years, both directly and through organizations such as Climate Action 100+ and The Alliance. If these approaches don’t work, Zurich will pursue more aggressive practices, such as voting against board members at shareholder meetings.
To help accelerate reductions in emissions of its operations, Zurich said it has set an internal price on those emissions starting in 2021. This levy is designed to feed a carbon fund, the insurer said, which will be used to support Zurich’s carbon dioxide neutrality commitment and drive down emissions from operations, plus other emission sources related to its business.
Zurich’s own reductions include target areas including its vehicle fleet and onsite heating, plus emissions from purchased electricity, heat and steam.
Other target areas for its operations include emissions from air, rental, and rail business travel, employee commuting, strategic data centers, printed paper and waste, and indirect energy impacts, Zurich said.
Source: Zurich Insurance