UNEP: Global insurance and reinsurance leaders establish alliance to accelerate transition to net-zero emissions economy
As the G20 gathers in Venice for its Climate Summit, eight of the world’s leading insurers and reinsurers make a historic commitment to play their part in accelerating the transition to a net-zero emissions economy, as required by the Paris Agreement.
The companies have established the Net-Zero Insurance Alliance (NZIA), convened by UNEP Finance Initiative’s Principles for Sustainable Insurance (PSI), and have committed to transition their insurance and reinsurance underwriting portfolios to net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050, consistent with a maximum temperature rise of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100. Each company decides how it will achieve this objective.
The eight founding members of the NZIA are AXA (NZIA Chair), Allianz, Aviva, Generali, Munich Re, SCOR, Swiss Re and Zurich Insurance Group. They are building on their climate leadership as investors through their membership in the UN-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance (NZAOA) established in 2019, where all eight NZIA founding members are already individually setting science-based 2025 decarbonisation targets for their respective investment portfolios in line with a net-zero transition pathway. Equally, based on the NZIA Statement of Commitment launched today, these global insurers and reinsurers will individually set science-based intermediate targets every five years and independently report on their progress publicly and annually. They will also advocate for and engage in governmental policies for a science-based and socially just transition of economic sectors to net zero.
“Through the Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance launched in 2019, insurers and reinsurers are already working towards decarbonising their investment portfolios in line with climate science and the Paris Agreement,” said Thomas Buberl, CEO of the AXA Group, which chairs the NZIA. “With this new Net-Zero Insurance Alliance, we are raising our climate ambition further by using our underwriting, claims, and risk management practices to help ensure and enable the transition to a resilient net-zero global economy.”
The commitments that the Alliance members announced today include concrete approaches that they can take to achieve their net-zero ambition on an individual basis. These include setting underwriting criteria and guidelines for the most GHG-intensive activities within their underwriting portfolios, engaging with clients and potential clients with the most GHG-intensive activities on their decarbonisation strategies and net-zero transition pathways, developing and offering insurance and reinsurance solutions for low-emission and zero-emission technologies and nature-based solutions that absorb GHG emissions, improving claims management in an environmentally sustainable manner, and integrating net-zero and decarbonisation-related risk criteria into their risk management frameworks.
“For generations, the insurance industry has served as society’s early warning system and risk manager by understanding, reducing, pricing and carrying risk. As we approach COP26 in Glasgow, the risks posed by global heating are escalating and the world is a long way from meeting the promises made when the Paris Climate Agreement was forged nearly six years ago,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). “Along with governments, the insurance industry and wider financial sector have the power and responsibility to drive progress towards a net-zero economy and a sustainable future for all. Guided by science, I am pleased to see leading insurers embed the net-zero ambition in their core insurance business. I urge the rest of the global insurance industry to respond to the climate emergency and urgently follow the example set by the founding members of this pioneering alliance.”
The NZIA Statement of Commitment is a comprehensive framework and considers the latest available scientific knowledge and associated social impacts, as well as findings of recognised reports such as those by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Net Zero by 2050 report. It includes supporting the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), considering emerging frameworks such as the Task Force on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, and signing the UN Principles for Sustainable Insurance (PSI). The Statement also recommends that insurers transition their investment portfolios to net-zero GHG emissions and join initiatives such as the NZAOA for a total balance sheet approach to net zero.
“Having a global financial system where every professional decision takes climate change into account requires harnessing the full role of the insurance industry as risk managers, insurers and investors for climate action,” said Mark Carney, the UN Special Envoy on Climate Action & Finance, the UK Prime Minister’s Finance Adviser for COP26, and Chair of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero. “By committing to join the gold standard alliance for net zero, the Net-Zero Insurance Alliance will ultimately make underwriting contingent on underlying companies having credible net-zero transition strategies.”
In the run up to COP26 this November, the NZIA membership is expected to grow to include insurers, reinsurers, brokers and insurance market bodies from across the globe. The NZIA is now getting ready to join the UN Race to Zero campaign in order to become officially part of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) chaired by Mark Carney. GFANZ brings together the leading net-zero initiatives across the financial system.
All GFANZ initiatives, including the NZIA, must be accredited by the UN Race to Zero campaign, and are committed to the highest standards to reach net-zero emissions, including covering all emission scopes, individual interim 2030 targets, and commit to transparent reporting and accounting in line with the Race to Zero criteria. The NZIA will immediately start working with the UN Race to Zero conveners to fulfil their accreditation criteria.
The Net-Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA), established in April 2021 by 43 founding banks, and also convened by UNEP Finance Initiative, has now grown to 53 banks from 27 countries with US$ 37 trillion in total assets – representing almost a quarter of banking assets worldwide1. 10 additional members have joined since launch: ABANCA, AIB, Banco Bradesco S.A., Caixa Geral de Depósitos, Crédit Agricole, Crédit Mutuel, Groupe BPCE, MUFG, Nationwide Building Society and Swedbank.
The Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance (NZAOA), jointly convened by the Principles for Responsible Investment and UNEP Finance Initiative, which was launched in September 2019 with 12 insurers and pension funds, now has 46 members representing nearly US$ 7 trillion in assets.