Brought to you by:
Berkley Insurance Australia
Berkley Insurance Australia

QBE faces new climate resolution push from activist group

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google

Climate activist group Market Forces is planning to lodge another shareholder resolution at the upcoming QBE annual general meeting (AGM) to try to force the insurer to step up its fossil fuel reduction efforts.

The planned action was announced yesterday immediately after QBE announced its 2019 financial results, with Group CEO Pat Regan saying the business is working to address the “material risk” posed by climate change.

The resolution, if passed at the May 7 meeting in Sydney, will require the insurer to disclose short, medium and long-term targets to cut its investment and underwriting exposure to oil and gas assets, along with a plan to achieve it. The targets must be consistent with the goals set by the Paris Agreement to curb global carbon emissions.

QBE declined to respond to the latest pressure campaign from Market Forces, with a spokesman telling insuranceNEWS.com.au the insurer has already outlined its climate approach through the Group Energy Policy that was announced last year.

At last year’s AGM, Market Forces secured enough support from QBE shareholders for a similar measure to be taken up. But the resolution failed at the final hurdle, with an overwhelming majority voting against it.

“It’s very similar to last year’s efforts,” Market Forces campaigner Pablo Brait told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

“Every year, the impact of the climate crisis becomes more obvious and the impact on the insurance industry becomes more obvious.

“And so we’re hoping that investors and the QBE board are prepared to take the issue seriously and act on the material business risk that QBE admits climate change is having on the business.”

Mr Brait says QBE’s Group Energy Policy does not go far enough.

The insurer began to withdraw from coal-related business last July, and expects to have phased out all underwriting business with thermal coal customers, except for statutory or compulsory insurance, by January 1 2030.

“That just deals with thermal coal,” Mr Brait said. “It just means QBE is still open to underwriting and insuring oil and gas including tar sands, unconventional gas and industries that have a similar emissions profile to thermal coal.”

At yesterday’s results announcement, QBE said the business will continue to “adjust its catastrophe models” this year as part of ongoing efforts to assess the expected impact of climate change until 2100.

“The obvious link between [the recent bushfires and other extreme weather events this summer] brings into sharp focus how climate-related risks are now the new normal for our industry,” Mr Regan said.

“We must take action to address these risks in our own operations, at the same time as supporting our customers to mitigate their exposure to climate risks and support the transition to a lower-carbon economy.”

QBE achieved a 41% rise in net profit to $US550 million ($822 million) last year. However its Australia Pacific business suffered a rise in catastrophe claims, caused in large part by the months-long bushfire disaster that began last spring and the Townsville floods.

Net cost of catastrophe claims rose to $US193 million ($288 million) or 5.4% of net earned premium (NEP) last year from $US106 million ($158.4 million) or 2.8% in 2018.

On a group-wide basis, the figures declined with net cost of catastrophe claims falling to $US426 million ($637 million) or 3.7% of NEP from $US523 million ($782 million) or 4.4% a year earlier.