The spotlight on the insurance industry’s support of fossil fuel projects is proving so searing that the names of some of those involved have been scrubbed from the record. Canada’s Trans Mountain, the operator of a pipeline that takes crude from the oil sands of Alberta to the west coast of British Columbia, made a new request of the country’s energy regulator in February.
It wished to redact the names of the pipeline’s insurers in its public filings, now and in the future, to shield them against a barrage of publicity from climate campaigners targeting the energy-intensive tar sands industry. Under that glare, Trans Mountain had already faced a significant reduction in appetite from the insurance market in 2020, and replacement policies were secured “at a significantly higher cost,” it said.
The regulator granted the request two months later, despite protestations from groups including the indigenous Tsleil-Waututh Nation, who said that a planned expansion in the pipeline “poses an existential threat to our way of life, due to the unacceptable risk of a devastating oil spill”
The pipeline extension has, like the controversial Carmichael coal mine in Australia, become a critical battleground for campaigners seeking to stop the financing and underwriting of the most polluting industries.
Naming-and-shaming, physical protest and advocacy have all been deployed to pressure insurers to rule out coverage of these activities, and to put in place wider policies on eliminating their exposure to coal as well as gradually phasing it out for oil and gas.
“The longer it takes for the insurance industry to get itself out of the firing line on this issue, the more attention it is going to get,” said Lindsay Keenan, European co-ordinator at Insure Our Future, a network of climate-focused organisations.