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Commissioner Lara holds insurance companies accountable in push for more investment in solutions to fight climate change

News: 2022 Press Release

For Release: April 18, 2022
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Commissioner Lara holds insurance companies accountable in push for more investment in solutions to fight climate change
New report and web page shine light on insurance companies’ fossil fuel investments as well as green investments

LOS ANGELES - Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara today issued a new report and web page detailing insurance companies’ investments in fossil fuels as part of his comprehensive effort to protect consumers from the impacts of climate change. The report is the most exhaustive study of fossil fuel investments by insurance companies ever done by any U.S. state. For the first time, the report identifies insurance company holdings in green bonds that support clean energy investments and other environmental projects, helping consumers and the California Department of Insurance measure insurance companies’ progress toward fighting climate change.

“We need more climate-focused investments to solve our climate crisis, including from insurance companies that must do more to protect consumers and the environment,” said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. “For the first time, we are disclosing fossil fuel investments while also measuring insurance companies’ commitment to sustainability through their investments in green bonds. This report is part of my continued comprehensive strategy to address insurance companies’ fossil fuel exposures and hold them accountable while letting consumers judge these companies’ progress on climate action for themselves.”

Californians can visit the Department’s website and type in the name of their insurance company to find out what percentage of their premiums are invested in fossil fuels. For example, the new report shows insurance companies continue to be heavily invested in fossil fuels, including carbon-intensive tar sands, which is one of the most environmentally destructive forms of oil extraction. Although investments in green bonds doubled from 2018 to 2019, the portion of investments in green bonds is small compared with the overall investment potential of the insurance industry. The data comes from publicly disclosed 2018 and 2019 financial investment information, which was analyzed by S&P Global.

"With climate change increasing threats to California communities, especially the most vulnerable, transparency about insurance companies' investments in the fossil fuel past and the green future matters more than ever," said Mary Creasman, CEO of California Environmental Voters Education Fund. "Californians care deeply about a climate-just future and Commissioner Lara's new report gives them an extraordinary level of information about how our premium dollars are spent, putting the power in our hands to join him in holding these global companies accountable."

Insurance companies use investments to help pay claims, which is why disclosure of potentially risky investments is needed. While climate change is increasing threats to the public from wildfires, flooding, and heat waves, it also poses a potential significant risk to the value of insurance investments and the ability for insurance companies to meet their financial responsibilities, including policyholder claims, if they do not have sustainable strategies in place.

California is the nation’s largest insurance market and fourth largest insurance market in the world, and Commissioner Lara is working with other states to enhance climate disclosures at the national level. He led a bipartisan effort by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to adopt a new global standard for reporting insurance company climate risks on April 8 in alignment with the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, or TCFD. Insurance regulators from France, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom currently require TCFD-aligned reports. U.S. financial regulators such as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission are also taking steps toward requiring TCFD-aligned disclosures for other financial institutions.

While 28 insurance companies provided TCFD-compliant reports in 2021, this list will grow to nearly 400 insurance companies and groups -- representing nearly 80 percent of the regulated U.S. insurance market -- as a result of this action.

The Department’s new website and report are one piece of a “Sustainable Insurance Roadmap” that Commissioner Lara is finalizing with the United Nations that includes increasing green investments, sustainable insurance products, and nature-based solutions as the core of the strategy.

Commissioner Lara initiated the report in 2020, building on previous efforts of the Department and ongoing efforts at the federal level to increase climate disclosures for other financial institutions.

“Since insurance is regulated by states, we regulators need to work together to protect consumers by reviewing insurance companies’ exposure to climate risks and their progress towards sustainable investments,” said Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, who has worked with California and other states on increasing climate disclosures. “Efforts such as this one initiated by California Insurance Commissioner Lara can encourage insurers to help get us on the path to net-zero carbon emissions. Identifying both fossil fuel investments as well as investments in green bonds, which decarbonize insurer portfolios, is a sensible approach.”

“Increased transparency around the holdings and climate risk exposure of institutional investors is a key first step to aligning the finance sector with net zero,” said Andrew Howell, Director of Investor Influence at Environmental Defense Fund. “We welcome this analysis from the California Department of Insurance as insurers explore how best to leverage their financial influence to accelerate the energy transition.”

“Investors globally are grappling with how to protect long-term investment portfolio value in light of the increasing risks posed by climate change,” said Carly Greenberg, CFA, Senior Relationship Manager for the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment. “Regulators have an important role to play in encouraging data disclosures that help investors and the public assess climate risk and take action. We commend the California Department of Insurance for their ongoing work to encourage insurers to report data that helps with the assessment of climate risk and opportunities.”


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Media Notes:

Led by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, the California Department of Insurance is the consumer protection agency for the nation's largest insurance marketplace and safeguards all of the state’s consumers by fairly regulating the insurance industry. Under the Commissioner’s direction, the Department uses its authority to protect Californians from insurance rates that are excessive, inadequate, or unfairly discriminatory, oversee insurer solvency to pay claims, set standards for agents and broker licensing, perform market conduct reviews of insurance companies, resolve consumer complaints, and investigate and prosecute insurance fraud. Consumers are urged to call 1-800-927-4357 with any questions or contact us at via webform or online chat. Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800-927-4357. Teletypewriter (TTY), please dial 800-482-4833.

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