Two City Resolutions Come on Heels of 38 MA Legislators Telling Liberty Mutual to Phase Out Insurance for the Keystone XL and TransMountain Pipelines and Other Fossil Fuel Infrastructure.
Cambridge, MA – In city council meetings last night and earlier in June, Cambridge and Somerville became the first cities in Massachusetts to pass resolutions calling on insurance companies to stop insuring and investing in fossil fuels. Somerville also committed to screening out insurance providers that continue to support fossil fuels without phaseout plans. Both resolutions focused on decarbonizing insurance, citing the need to address financial support for fossil fuel industries that contribute to climate change and the enormous toll climate pollution inflicts on public health and the economy.
“I am proud to stand with the climate activists in Somerville who are pushing so hard to dismantle the unseen financial systems that prop up the fossil fuel industry. This resolution means that we are going to work to screen potential insurance companies that we contract with, and we are sending a strong message to the insurance sector: we will not work with you if you are insuring or investing in climate chaos.” said Somerville City Councilor Ben Ewen-Campen. “I’m glad to help open this new front in our overall commitment to divesting from fossil fuels, which we’ve been pushing for years, including Mayor Curtatone’s call to divest our pension and the Council’s support for H4440, state legislation that would authorize our retirement board to do so.”
“Cambridge has a long history of addressing global climate change at the local level and we are now urging the insurance industry to stop exacerbating the climate crisis by decarbonizing their business activity and working with us for a climate-safe future,” said Cambridge City Councilor Quinton Zondervan. “Like many areas around the country, Massachusetts is vulnerable to climate change from severe weather, flooding, and heat, representing billions of dollars in insured losses. We would love to see all Massachusetts municipalities deepen their climate action and look at their financial partners.”
The resolutions are part of a growing trend of local legislators and fiduciaries pushing insurance companies to take responsibility for their role in the climate crisis. Somerville and Cambridge follow San Francisco, Paris, and Boulder County which adopted similar resolutions over the past two years. In April, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer and pension fund trustees wrote a letter to Liberty Mutual, AIG, and Berkshire Hathaway, calling on the insurers to stop insuring and investing in thermal coal.
Last month 38 Massachusetts legislators sent an open letter to Liberty Mutual calling on the Boston-based insurance giant to stop insuring and investing in fossil fuels. Liberty Mutual is a top target of the national Stop The Money Pipeline campaign, which is demanding that banks, insurers, asset managers, and institutional investors stop funding, insuring, and investing in climate destruction.
Insurance companies make dirty energy infrastructure projects possible by providing insurance to build and operate them. They also invest customers’ premiums in fossil fuel companies. U.S. insurers cover projects like coal-fired power plants, oil pipelines, and other fossil fuel infrastructure that lock the U.S. into decades of dirty and expensive energy that accelerates climate change. Meanwhile, these same insurers abandon communities at risk from climate change impacts by not renewing homeowner policies in vulnerable areas like wildfire zones.
“More and more local officials see the role financial institutions play in the climate crisis. These resolutions acknowledge that 40 of the largest US insurers hold over $450 billion in coal, oil, gas, and electric utilities, exacerbating the climate crisis and harming public health,” said Bill McKibben, a founder of 350.org and leader in the global divestment movement. “I’m thrilled to see Massachusetts joining the effort to push the insurance industry out of fossil fuels.”
Since 2015, 19 global insurers have adopted policies to limit or end their insurance for coal; of these, just four are U.S. insurers. Nearly 30 insurers have announced plans to divest from coal assets.
“We applaud the cities of Somerville and Cambridge for their leadership by sending a clear message to the insurance industry and others in the financial sector that we must align taxpayer dollars with local values and efforts to stabilize the climate and transition to a clean, renewable energy future,” said Randi Mail, Massachusetts Finance Organizer with Rainforest Action Network and political director for the MassDivest Coalition.
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