Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Dear Common Dreams Readers:
Corporations and billionaires have their own media. Shouldn't we? When you “follow the money” that funds our independent journalism, it all leads back to this: people like you. Our supporters are what allows us to produce journalism in the public interest that is beholden only to people, our planet, and the common good. Please support our Mid-Year Campaign so that we always have a newsroom for the people that is funded by the people. Thank you for your support. --Jon Queally, managing editor

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Evan GReenberg climate Transmountain

Climate campaigners conduct a direct action at Zurich office building of insurance giant Chubb in May. (Photo: Campax)

Dear Evan Greenberg, Climate Leaders Don’t Insure Tar Sands Pipelines

Chubb,the world's largest publicly traded property and casualty insurer, is part of the climate problem—not the solution.

Elana Sulakshana

Canada’s Trans Mountain pipeline is an environmental and human rights disaster. It transports tar sands, one of the world’s dirtiest fossil fuels, from Alberta to Vancouver, across the territories of Indigenous Peoples who have made their opposition to the pipeline clear. Its 85 spills to date have poisoned lands and waters. And the proposed Trans Mountain expansion would triple the flow of oil and substantially increase the risk of catastrophic spills, particularly in the fragile Burrard Inlet.

No one can call themselves a climate leader and support this pipeline. Yet that’s exactly what Chubb, the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurer, is doing. Chubb CEO Evan Greenberg talks a big game on climate, but Chubb is still insuring Trans Mountain, driving catastrophic climate change and trampling the rights of Indigenous Peoples. When the current certificate of insurance expires on August 31, Greenberg has an opportunity to cut ties with the pipeline. And if he’s serious about being a climate leader, that’s exactly what he’ll do.

What’s wrong with Trans Mountain?

Canada’s oil and gas sector is the main reason that the country is unlikely to meet its 2030 Paris climate target. Tar sands is among the most carbon-intensive sources of oil on the planet, with emissions 70% above the global average.

The IEA has made it clear that the planet cannot afford any new fossil fuel infrastructure if we are to avoid climate catastrophe. That includes new coal projects and new oil and gas installations like the Trans Mountain expansion.

Trans Mountain also threatens fragile lands and wildlife. The expansion pipeline has an estimated 87% chance of causing a devastating oil spill in the waters off the Pacific Northwest, waterways that Indigenous tribes have spent decades restoring to health.

Traditional owners of the land—including the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Squamish Nation, Coldwater Indian Band, and Ts'elxwéyeqw Tribes—have made it clear that this pipeline and its expansion do not have their free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC). FPIC is enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Canada officially adopted in 2016.

Will Chubb drop Trans Mountain?

Insurers are fleeing this toxic pipeline in droves: 15 major insurers have already ruled out insuring it. Argo, which is currently insuring the pipeline, has committed to drop it when the certificate expires on August 31, saying the pipeline is not within the company’s “risk appetite.” Scor and Lancashire, who have insured the pipeline in the past, also committed this summer to never cover it again. And just this week, Cincinnati Global ruled out getting involved.

Insurers fleeing the pipeline threaten its ability to operate, and Trans Mountain has gone so far as to request—and receive—the right to hide the names of its insurers. But until the insurers listed on the last public certificate of insurance publicly commit to cut ties, we have every reason to assume they are still insuring the pipeline.

That means we need Chubb to publicly drop Trans Mountain, as Indigenous and environmental advocates have been calling on them to do. In May, over 70 organizations wrote a letter to Chubb CEO Evan Greenberg asking him to take action on climate and cut ties with Trans Mountain. In June, protests across the world called on Trans Mountain’s insurers to stop supporting this devastating pipeline.

Greenberg’s climate action falls short of his rhetoric

Greenberg’s failure to act on climate is particularly disappointing in light of his climate rhetoric. As early as 2006, Greenberg stated that “no greater problem confronts mankind than global warming.” In 2019, Chubb became the first U.S. company to adopt a policy restricting the company’s coal business. Greenberg said that the policy reflected “Chubb’s commitment to do our part as a steward of the Earth.”

But these words mean little when Chubb remains a top global oil and gas insurer. As other US insurers—such as AXIS Capital, The Hartford, MetLife, and The Hanover—restrict support for tar sands, Chubb continues to underwrite tar sands pipelines like Trans Mountain with no restrictions.

It also has not ruled out insuring Arctic drilling, despite the impacts on wildlife and Indigenous communities. The six largest US banks have all ruled out support for oil and gas drilling projects in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as have insurance companies like AXA, Swiss Re, AXIS Capital, MAPFRE, and QBE.

In fact, Chubb has done absolutely nothing to reign in fossil fuel support since adopting its coal policy in 2019. Its coal policy has been exceeded by U.S. peers like The Hartford and AXIS Capital, and it lags far behind European and Australian counterparts. The coal policy still includes major loopholes around new coal projects and the definition of coal companies that Greenberg has refused to close.

The planet cannot afford fossil fuel expansion, and neither can Chubb

Chubb’s failure to act has implications for its bottom line. The UK’s largest asset manager, Legal & General, recently divested from AIG as a result of its coal underwriting policies. Meanwhile, Chubb is on the hook for costs related to insuring a coal mine. Insurers are facing increasing costs for major oil spills, not to mention the costs of climate change itself: global industry losses from natural catastrophes were $82 billion in 2020.

The IEA has made it clear that the planet cannot afford any new fossil fuel infrastructure if we are to avoid climate catastrophe. That includes new coal projects and new oil and gas installations like the Trans Mountain expansion. The Capital Monitor recently asked the top global oil and gas insurers about their reactions to the IEA report’s finding that to align with 1.5ºC, there must be an immediate cessation to investing in and building new oil and gas projects. Chubb refused to even respond.

So much for being a climate leader.

If Evan Greenberg truly wants to step up and tackle the climate crisis, it’s time for action to match rhetoric. He can start by dropping Trans Mountain and adopting a policy to rule out insuring all fossil fuel expansion projects.


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

Elana Sulakshana

Elana Sulakshana leads Rainforest Action Network’s campaign pressuring the U.S. insurance industry to stop making the climate crisis worse. She has been active in the climate justice movement for the last eight years, most recently organizing for just and equitable climate policy in Washington State, fighting fracking in the U.K., and campaigning for universities to divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in communities.

"I'm sure this will be all over the corporate media, right?"
That’s what one longtime Common Dreams reader said yesterday after the newsroom reported on new research showing how corporate price gouging surged to a nearly 70-year high in 2021. While major broadcasters, newspapers, and other outlets continue to carry water for their corporate advertisers when they report on issues like inflation, economic inequality, and the climate emergency, our independence empowers us to provide you stories and perspectives that powerful interests don’t want you to have. But this independence is only possible because of support from readers like you. You make the difference. If our support dries up, so will we. Our crucial Mid-Year Campaign is now underway and we are in emergency mode to make sure we raise the necessary funds so that every day we can bring you the stories that corporate, for-profit outlets ignore and neglect. Please, if you can, support Common Dreams today.

 

'Infuriating': Biden Rebuked for Continued Opposition to Supreme Court Expansion

"What does Biden 'agree' with doing?" Mehdi Hasan asked. "What does the leader of this country want to do to stop the increasingly fascistic assault on our democratic institutions and basic rights?"

Kenny Stancil ·


'We Need Action': Biden, Democrats Urged to Protect Abortion Access in Post-Roe US

"The Supreme Court doesn't get the final say on abortion," Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Tina Smith wrote in a new op-ed.

Kenny Stancil ·


Motorist 'Tried to Murder' Abortion Rights Advocates at Iowa Protest, Witnesses Say

Although one witness said the driver went "out of his way" to hit pro-choice protestors in the street, Cedar Rapids police declined to make an arrest.

Kenny Stancil ·


'A Hate Crime': Oslo Pride Parade Canceled After Deadly Shooting at Gay Bar

A 42-year-old gunman has been charged with terrorism following what Norway's prime minister called a "terrible and deeply shocking attack on innocent people."

Kenny Stancil ·


'We WILL Fight Back': Outrage, Resolve as Protests Erupt Against SCOTUS Abortion Ruling

Demonstrators took to the streets Friday to defiantly denounce the Supreme Court's right-wing supermajority after it rescinded a constitutional right for the first time in U.S. history.

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo