If insurance companies updated their policies and refused to insure new fossil fuel projects like the East African Crude Oil Pipeline, there would be no new oil pipelines, liquefied natural gas terminals, or dirty coal mines.
2023 was a record-breaking year for all the wrong reasons. "The hottest in 125,000 years, it brought more $1 billion extreme weather events than ever recorded.
Wildfires raged on multiple continents, including Canadian forest fires so intense that they caused smoky skies across the United Kingdom and central Europe. Floods swept homes away, and a flood in Libya killed more than 11,300 people. Storms, hurricanes, and droughts have increased at a violent pace, devastating communities, lives, and crops.
Having grown up on a farm in Uganda, I have seen the damage of the climate crisis firsthand. My family lived in a small village near the banks of Lake Victoria, the second largest freshwater lake in the world, and my childhood was spent climbing trees, planting seeds, and eating fruit straight from the trees. We grew bananas, guavas, beans, cassava, sugarcane, and coffee. It sounds idyllic but I remember the first time I realised climate change would affect us—it was a rainy season unlike any we had seen before. For days and nights heavy rain battered the fields and strong winds bent and broke the crops until they were unsavable. Not only did the rains affect us financially, but I missed months of my schooling because flooding blocked the roads and I couldn’t get to school.
The insurance industry’s role is to protect and manage risk, but right now it is failing spectacularly at both.
Burning fossil fuels, which releases carbon pollution into the air and causes our world to overheat, is the number one cause of the climate chaos we’re facing. 2024 may be even hotter than 2023, resulting in even more catastrophic weather.
But there is still hope. Those with power must act now, and the insurance industry holds more power than most to slow the crisis and protect our future. Without insurance, fossil fuel projects can’t operate. If insurance companies updated their policies and refused to insure new fossil fuel projects, there would be no new oil pipelines, liquefied natural gas terminals, or dirty coal mines. If they focused instead on insuring clean, safe energy and a just transition, our communities and our world would be safer for current and future generations.
The insurance industry’s role is to protect and manage risk, but right now it is failing spectacularly at both. Instead of protecting communities, it’s adding fuel to the fire by continuing to insure new fossil fuel projects. The East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) is a prime example. This proposed pipeline would run 1,443 kilometers between Hoima in Uganda and Tanga in Tanzania, but the project has stalled as it has not yet secured full insurance and financing due to the many human and environmental rights abuses associated with it. These include the harassment and imprisonment of peaceful protesters, the disturbing of sacred burial grounds, and the forcible removal of communities to make way for the pipeline. If EACOP gets insured and goes ahead, it will cross 200 rivers and pass through Lake Victoria’s water basin. Over 40 million people depend on the lake for survival, as well as countless animal species; if the pipe leaks and spills oil into the water, what will happen to them?
The corporations behind EACOP say it will “unlock East Africa’s potential,” but let’s be clear: It is neocolonialism at its best, and the only ones who will gain are the foreign companies set to profit. EACOP will irrevocably damage East Africa’s biodiversity, displace thousands of people, destroy their livelihoods and communities, and unleash 32.3 million metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere per year, setting off a climate bomb that will make our world overheat to devastating levels. The International Energy Agency has stated that there can be no new oil pipelines if we are to save the future, and yet insurance companies including AIG, Tokio Marine, Chubb, Hiscox, and Lloyd’s of London still refuse to rule out insuring EACOP.
We have been campaigning to stop EACOP since it was announced in 2013, and so far 28 global insurers have ruled out involvement in the dangerous project. Even the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development for Uganda, Ruth Nankabirwa, acknowledged that difficulties obtaining insurance have been a key reason that the project has stalled. This is a huge win for our communities, but we need all major (re)insurers to rule out supporting such a dangerous new oil pipeline to make sure that it never gets built. And to do that, we need your help.
I have been arrested, threatened, and called a traitor to my country for fighting for our collective future, but I won’t stop because I know what is at risk if we don’t win. My family no longer owns a farm, and I no longer play at being a farmer; instead, I plant seeds in a different way. I am proud to be a climate activist. I believe that the work we do now will grow into a brighter tomorrow, that hope will bloom into action, and that together we can push the insurance industry to be the heroes the world needs now, because later is too late. Please join the Insure Our Future Global Week of Action through March 3 and add your voice to the demand for AIG, Tokio Marine, Lloyd’s of London, and other global insurers to publicly step away from EACOP.