Axa targets coal exit by 2040 and eyes green investments

November 29 2019 by Yvonne Lau

Paris-headquartered Axa has pledged to exit the coal industry globally by 2040; and has set an even earlier coal exit by 2030 for Europe and OECD markets.

The insurer’s pledge is aligned with the group’s climate blueprint, which includes curtailing emissions and green investments – and could erase an estimated £515 million (US$666 million) from coal markets, according to data by Global Coal Exit List.

Speaking this week, Thomas Buberl, Axa’s global chief executive, said: “We are launching a new phase in our climate strategy to accelerate our contribution to the transition towards a low-carbon and resilient economy, notably by focusing our sustainable finance efforts towards the energy transition of major industries.”

In 2018, Axa XL, a subsidiary of the larger group, gave up €100 million (US$113 million) of gross written premiums in lost revenue to coordinate with group policy. Under the policy, Axa will no longer underwrite construction and operations of coal plants, coal mines, oil sands extraction and pipelines and arctic drilling. The group’s investment exclusion policy also meant a €660 million (US$726 million) divestment for Axa XL.

Another integral focus for Axa are green investments – they have slated €24 billion (US$26 billion) in this area until 2023, a doubling of their commitment to reach €12 billion (US$15 billion) in green investments by 2020.

Despite the promise and potential of Axa’s policies and efforts, a report by non-profit body InfluenceMap noted that in 2018, the firm’s thermal coal holdings more than doubled. Its subsidiary AllianceBernstein’s purchase of Arch Coal and Peabody Energy stakes was the main culprit.

Other major global insurers have felt the pressure on numerous fronts to jettison growth through coal. Environmental lobbying has increased, but undeniable losses from a heavy spate of natural catastrophes in Asia, some linked or exacerbated by a warming earth, has pushed for a rethink of business strategy interlinked with climate events.

Zurich, Swiss Re, Munich Re, Allianz, among others have all confirmed coal-reduction policies in recent years.

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