Members of Stand.earth deliver their petition to Zurich Insurance. Image credit: Stand.earth
Trans Mountain must renew its insurance by the end of August in order to proceed with its controversial tar sands pipeline – and two more insurers have just announced they’re dropping the project.
This. Is. Huge. Because Zurich, Trans Mountain’s biggest insurer, could be very close to dropping the pipeline too.
But despite committing last year to stop insuring tar sands projects like this one, we have intel that Zurich is under direct pressure from the Federal Government to find a loophole that will make it possible for them to keep insuring the pipeline. A wave of public pressure is urgently needed to push Zurich over the line, leaving Trans Mountain scrambling to find new insurers before its deadline next month.
Last year, Zurich became one of the world’s first insurance companies to announce it would no longer back dirty tar sands projects. But when push came to shove, the company ended up renewing its coverage with the Trans Mountain pipeline in 2019 – falling for Trudeau’s greenwash about the fossil fuel pipeline somehow fitting within Canada’s climate targets.
Clearly, Zurich isn’t getting it. Someone needs to remind its executives that the Trans Mountain pipeline is literally designed to bring toxic tar sands from Alberta to the Pacific coast, massively increasing the risk of a tanker spill in the Salish Sea and locking in tar sands expansion for another 40 years.
Tar sands are one of the dirtiest, highest carbon sources of oil on the planet. Emissions from oil and gas production are one of the primary reasons Canada cannot meet its Paris commitments. And the only thing limiting the growth of the tar sands right now is a lack of pipeline capacity. That’s why stopping the Trans Mountain pipeline is critical in the fight against climate change.
Taking on the insurance industry may seem like an unusual tactic, but it just might be our best shot for stopping this pipeline project once and for all. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Canada denied the Squamish Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Coldwater Indian Band leave to appeal the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline. Though each of these nations remain steadfast in their commitment to fighting the project and are still exploring other legal options available to them, getting insurers to drop the pipeline is now more critical than ever. And without insurance, the Trans Mountain pipeline simply cannot go ahead.
Already, momentum is building. As a result of public pressure, eight insurance companies have recently decided to stop insuring the tar sands. The insurance industry is waking up to the fact that fossil fuel companies are risky customers for it, and is well aware that climate change is an existential threat to its business model.
If we can pressure Zurich to follow suit and drop its policy with Trans Mountain ahead of the August 31st renewal deadline, it would be a huge setback for the beleaguered project. And (bonus!) it would make it harder for future tar sands projects to get insured too. But to convince Zurich not to fall for the Federal Government’s environmental lies about the pipeline once again, and remind it that this project is a complete climate disaster – we need a public outcry.
Shifting the entire insurance industry may seem like a big task, but we’ve already made huge progress since we launched this campaign last year. When Trans Mountain’s insurance was up for renewal in 2019, we reached out to all its insurers directly and put the spotlight on the industry in the media. So many people in the Stand.earth community stepped up to put the pressure on insurance companies, signing petitions, emailing key executives, and calling head offices. When we delivered your petition to Zurich’s Vancouver office last summer, an employee told us that they’re very aware of our campaign – and in fact, their office had been flooded by calls and emails from this community.
This year, we’ve sent letters to all Trans Mountain’s insurers again – and right off the bat, German companies Munich Re and HDI responded to let us know that they were going to be dropping the project. None of this would have been possible without the incredible work done by Stand members. We’re so close to getting Trans Mountain’s biggest insurer to drop the pipeline once and for all, but Zurich is still dragging its feet.
I’m not sure who needs to hear this right now, but let me assure you: this pipeline will never get built.
Sven Biggs, Canadian Oil and Gas Programs Director, Stand.earth