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Swiss Re limits thermal coal coverage

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Swiss Re Ltd. will not provide insurance or reinsurance to businesses with more than 30% thermal coal exposure starting Monday.

The Zurich-based reinsurer has started implementation of its thermal coal policy, adopted as part of Swiss Re’s “strong commitment” to adopt the principles of the Paris climate agreement, which reaffirmed a goal of limiting the global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius and committed countries to develop plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and regularly report on their progress.

“As a result, Swiss Re supports a progressive and structured shift away from fossil fuels,” the reinsurer said in a statement on Monday.

The group-wide thermal coal policy is part of Swiss Re’s Sustainability Risk Framework, which the reinsurer uses for all underwriting and investment activities to minimize sustainability risks. The thermal coal policy applies to both existing and new thermal coal mines and power plants and is implemented across all lines of business and Swiss Re’s global operations.

“It has been our goal to develop a comprehensive approach to coal underwriting,” Patrick Raaflaub, Swiss Re’s group chief risk officer, said in the statement. “This has been a complex task, and I am very pleased that we are now in a position to start rolling out our thermal coal policy.”

The 30% threshold applied is in line with the thresholds on the reinsurer’s investment side. Swiss Re stopped investing in companies that generate 30% or more of their revenues from thermal coal mining or that use at least 30% thermal coal for power generation by the beginning of 2016 and has divested from existing holdings to contribute to a low-carbon environment and actively mitigate the risk of stranded assets, according to the reinsurer.

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones has focused on the issue of stranded assets as part of his Climate Risk Carbon Initiative, launched in January 2016 to require insurers with $100 million in annual premiums doing business in California to disclose investments in fossil fuels and asked all insurers operating in the state to divest investments in thermal coal. The commissioner launched the initiative — in the face of opposition from Republican officials in fossil fuel states — because of the potential for investments in fossil fuels to become stranded assets on the books of insurers, meaning they have little or no value amid regulatory and market changes.