Probitas announces block on insuring two major fossil fuel projects

  • Post last modified:March 5, 2024
  • Reading time:21 mins read

Campaign groups Extinction Rebellion and Insure Our Future have scored a major victory in the battle against fossil fuels and neo-colonialism. A major insurance company, Probitas, has confirmed it is refusing to insure two climate crisis-causing fossil fuel projects – including the so-called EACOP. It comes after the group’s week of action in the City of London – and shows that direct action can work.

Probitas: called on to ‘insure our future’

Major insurer Probitas1492 has confirmed that it will never insure two major ‘carbon bomb’ projects – the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) and the proposed West Cumbria coal mine – after a week of peaceful protest from Extinction Rebellion and members of the Insure Our Future coalition.

On Tuesday 27 February, members of Christian Climate Action (CCA) visited the offices of several global underwriters, asking that they upgrade their policies in line with global climate goals and commit to stop profiting from new fossil fuel expansion.

CCA staged a peaceful sit-in at the City of London offices of Probitas on 27 February:

a protest sit in at Probitas

Hundreds of Extinction Rebellion activists staged a peaceful march called the Fossil Fools tour that visited the building. On Thursday 29 February, a previously unknown climate group called Stop The System claimed responsibility for spraying the windows of the same offices with red paint.

No to fossil fuel projects

Probitas – who previously insured the controversial Adani Carmichael coal mine in Australia but exited after a determined campaign by climate activists – has never publicly ruled out insuring EACOP and West Cumbria.

However, their chief executive officer Ash Bathia finally made a public pledge that his company would never insure either project, while claiming that his statement was in no way to connected to a week of pressure from activists in the UK.

Bathia told Extinction Rebellion:

I can confirm that Probitas does not currently provide any insurance support, and has no intention of providing future insurance support, to the Adani Coal Mine, the West Cumbrian Coalmine Project, or the East African Crude Oil Pipeline.

Underwriting these projects would not be in compliance with our ESG policy. We would like to clarify that our stance on the above was already a matter of company policy and has not changed following the recent protests and criminal damage caused during the XR protests.

Stop underwriting the climate crisis

There is widespread agreement among the world’s leading energy experts, climate scientists, and the UN that new fossil fuel projects cannot go ahead if we are to limit dangerous levels of global overheating. In 2022, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said ‘investing in new fossil fuels is moral and economic madness.’

In advance of a global week of action on fossil fuel insurance, Probitas were one of more than 40 insurers in the City of London sent letters by Extinction Rebellion, notifying that they may face protests unless they bring their policies in line with mainstream science.

This means enacting a complete and immediate withdrawal from insuring new and expanding oil, gas and coal projects, infrastructure and operations.

Insurers: be ‘climate heroes’

Extinction Rebellion spokesperson Pete Knapp said

We’re extremely pleased that the leaders of Probitas have made the brave and rational decision to be on the right side of history, to ensure their business has a sustainable future, and that all of us have a better chance of a future, free of killer storms and heatwaves, famine, flood and war.

By listening to our voices and our protests and announcing publicly that they have ruled out insuring two lethal fossil fuel projects that would have super-charged the climate and ecological crisis, Probitas has set an example for the rest of the global insurance industry to follow.

Another major insurance firm, Zurich, has requested a second round of talks with campaigners, including Extinction Rebellion, about their continued greenlighting of new oil and gas projects after a week of sustained protest. So, it’s clear that our pressure is beginning to tell.

Now we say to other insurers still refusing to pull the plug on polluters: this is your chance to be climate heroes by announcing that you are exiting new fossil fuels.

Well done Probitas – for now

Christian Climate Action spokesperson Mark Francis said:

We want to congratulate Probitas on choosing not to insure the East African Crude Oil Pipeline. This pipeline, if it goes ahead, will devastate local habitats, and create highly dangerous levels of carbon pollution. We urge all other insurers to take the same position and announce that they will not insure the fossil fuel industry’s plan to extract more dirty fuel than can ever be safely burnt.

Moreover, Aviva has announced a £242m acquisition of Probitas, signaling the insurance giant’s re-entry into the Lloyd’s of London marketplace.

Will Attenborough, a spokesperson for Coal Action Network, said:

Aviva is a relative leader on climate. This new relationship with Probitas, a firm known to have insured coal expansion as recently as last year, must not weaken Aviva’s standards. We ask Aviva to show leadership and encourage Probitas to upgrade their policies in line with global climate goals.

Stop the greenwashing

During the Insure Our Future week of action, Extinction Rebellion protests and actions moved from London to visit insurance offices in cities and towns across the UK. These included ‘cleaners’ visiting insurance companies with a ‘greenwashing machine’:

They were organised in solidarity with the Insure Our Future Global Week of Action which saw marches and peaceful sit-ins happen on four days across the City of London.

There were also actions in 24 countries around the world including: the USA, France, Germany, Switzerland, Czechia, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Egypt, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, DRC, Costa Rica, Colombia, Peru, South Korea, and Japan.

Featured image and additional images via Extinction Rebellion

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