Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Activists with Insure Our Future gathered outside Liberty Mutual's Boston and Seattle offices in December 2019 to demand the insure company "take bold action in the face of the climate emergency and stop insuring fossil fuels."

Activists with Insure Our Future gathered outside Liberty Mutual's Boston and Seattle offices in December 2019 to demand the insure company "take bold action in the face of the climate emergency and stop insuring fossil fuels." (Photo: Insure Our Future/Twitter)

Activists Ramp Up Pressure on Other Insurers After Swiss Company Ditches 'Climate-Wrecking' Trans Mountain Pipeline

"Zurich's decision to walk away from the pipeline just underlines how risky this project has become."

Jessica Corbett

Climate campaigners and Indigenous activists celebrated after reporting from Reuters revealed on Wednesday that the Swiss insurance giant Zurich will soon stop providing coverage to the Canadian government-owned Trans Mountain Pipeline, increasing the pressure on other insurers to also ditch the existing tar sands pipeline and long-delayed expansion project.

"Insurers should protect us from risk, not accelerate climate change."
—Ross Hammond,
The Sunrise Project and Insure Our Future

"Zurich has done the right thing by refusing to insure the Trans Mountain Pipeline any longer. Hopefully Liberty Mutual and the other companies insuring it do the right thing before the end of August and drop it too," Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, said in a statement Thursday.

"Any company insuring Trans Mountain is complicit in violations of Indigenous rights," he explained, "because the proposed pipeline expansion does not have the consent of all impacted First Nations along the route."

"Zurich's decision to drop Trans Mountain demonstrates that it's waking up the risks of this toxic project to Indigenous land rights, local ecosystems, and the planet," said Elana Sulakshana, energy finance campaigner at Rainforest Action Network (RAN).

The decades-old pipeline has a long history of spills—including one at a pump station in British Columbia last month—and Indigenous groups and climate campaigners have spent years in court fighting against the expansion project known as TMX.

"Some of Zuirch's peers in the global insurance industry are also taking note, as eight companies now have policies that limit or end insurance coverage for tar sands," said Sulakshana. "It's way past time for Liberty Mutual and Chubb to follow suit."

Liberty Mutual is a top target of the Stop the Money Pipeline campaign, which was launched in January by a coalition of climate, youth, and Indigenous groups to pressure banks, insurers, and asset managers to "stop financing fossil fuels and deforestation and start respecting human rights and Indigenous sovereignty."

As Sulakshana explained in an op-ed for Common Dreams earlier this month, Trans Mountain's insurance policy is up at the end of August, so environmental advocacy groups, First Nations, and insurance campaigners have been calling on the 11 insurers that currently cover Trans Mountain to:

  • Publicly commit to not renew their insurance policy for Trans Mountain for 2020-21;
  • Moving forward, rule out insurance for all tar sands extraction and transport projects and companies;
  • Adopt a policy to ensure that projects and companies they insure have obtained the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent of impacted communities.

The insurers for the pipeline that she listed are Zurich (Switzerland); Lloyd's (U.K.), Liberty Mutual (U.S.); Chubb (U.S.); AIG (U.S.), WR Berkley (U.S.); Starr (U.S.), Stewart Specialty Risk Underwriting (Canada); Energy Insurance Mutual (U.S.); Temple Insurance (Germany), a Canadian member of the Munich Re group; and HDI (Germany), which is owned by Talanx/Hannover Re.

"In late June, Talanx indicated that it already dropped the pipeline, and Munich Re signaled that it will not renew its policy," Sulakshana noted.

Reuters reported Wednesday that "Munich Re said it would review the contract given its new underwriting guideline on oil sands."

While a spokesperson for Zurich declined to comment on the Reuters report, a Trans Mountain spokesperson told the news agency that the Swiss insurer has decided not to renew its policy. According to Reuters:

The Trans Mountain Pipeline's annual liability insurance contract, dated August 2019 but filed with the Canada Energy Regulator on April 30, 2020, had shown Zurich was the lead insurer for the pipeline.

The insurance, which provides $508 million of cover, runs to August 2020, the filing showed.

Zurich was the sole insurer for the first $8 million of potential insurance payouts and the company provided a total of $300 million in cover with other insurers, the 2019-20 energy regulatory filing showed.

Despite Zurich's decision, the Trans Mountain spokesperson said that "there remains adequate capacity in the market to meet Trans Mountain's insurance needs and our renewal." Given that other insurers still plan to provide coverage, campaigners are maintaining pressure on both companies and the Canadian government to reconsider enabling the pipeline to continue operating and expanding.

"Insurers should protect us from risk, not accelerate climate change," Ross Hammond of the Sunrise Project and Insure Our Future wrote in a tweet welcoming the Swiss company's move.

"The Trans Mountain Pipeline puts communities, the climate, and billions of dollars in Canadian taxpayers' money at risk," said Sven Biggs, Canadian Oil and Gas Program director at "Zurich's decision to walk away from the pipeline just underlines how risky this project has become."

Biggs added that "it's time for the Trudeau government to take another look at this project, and ask if this is the right time to spend over $10 billion on a pipeline that is rapidly losing the support of the financial sector."

The Canadian arm of, in a tweet Wednesday, put the insurer's renewal decision in the context of not only the climate emergency but also the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and campaigners' calls for a just recovery from the public health crisis.

Nearly 200 groups in Canada including unveiled their demands for a just recovery in late May, arguing that "recovery efforts must not take us backward; they must accelerate the transition towards a more healthy, sustainable, and equitable society."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Dems Threaten to Subpoena FTI Consulting Over 'Blanket Refusal' to Provide Info on Fossil Fuel Work

"FTI's refusal to cooperate with this congressional inquiry shows that they have something to hide, which will reveal the dangerous ways agencies like theirs have promoted fossil fuel greenwash and misinformation," said the Clean Creatives campaign's leader.

Jessica Corbett ·

Bad Day for DeSantis as 'Stop WOKE Act' Hit With Injunction, Lawsuit

"If Florida truly believes we live in a post-racial society, then let it make its case," a federal judge wrote in blocking part of the controversial law. "But it cannot win the argument by muzzling its opponents."

Brett Wilkins ·

US Judge Says Mar-a-Lago Affidavit 'Can Be Unsealed' With Redactions

"This is going to be a considered, careful process, where everybody's rights, the government's and the media's, will be protected," declared U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart.

Jessica Corbett ·

Federal Judge Orders Starbucks to Rehire Fired Union Organizers in Memphis

"It was a ruling in favor of what's right," said one member of the Memphis Seven. "We knew from day one that we were going to win this, it just took time."

Brett Wilkins ·

Activists Arrested While Protesting 'Dirty Pipeline Deal' Outside Schumer's Office

"Sen. Schumer is sacrificing frontline communities and our clean energy future, all to placate a coal baron," said one organizer, referring to the majority leader's side agreement with Sen. Joe Manchin.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo