Activists applaud Zurich Insurance’s move to end cover for Trans Mountain pipeline

Indigenous chiefs and elders lead thousands of people on a protest on March 10, 2018 against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. Keystone / Darryl Dyck

Campaigners have welcomed the decision by Zurich Insurance not to renew cover for the Canadian government’s Trans Mountain oil pipeline. Their focus has now turned on others insuring the controversial pipeline.

This content was published on July 23, 2020 - 15:48

Activists have welcomed the move by Zurich – the lead insurer of the pipeline, which is opposed by environmental campaigners and some indigenous groups.

“Zurich has finally decided to walk the talk. This is a clear sign for other insurers or funders to check whether their commitments to help curb the effects of climate change are still up to date,” said Angelina Dobler, a campaigner at Campax, in a statement on July 23.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, echoed her words: “Zurich has done the right thing by refusing to insure the Trans Mountain pipeline any longer. Hopefully the other companies insuring it do the right thing before the end of August and drop it too.”

Financial services companies are under pressure from campaigners who criticize the planned expansion of the Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline, which ships oil to British Columbia from Canada’s main oil-producing province of Alberta. It has also drawn ire from some First Nations leaders anxious about the impact on their communities.

Trans Mountain is meanwhile pressing ahead with plans to expand its pipeline connecting tar sands in Alberta to the Pacific coast outside Vancouver, adding an extra 590,000 barrels a day of capacity. It said it has the insurance it needs for its existing operations and the “expansion project”.

“There remains adequate capacity in the market to meet Trans Mountain’s insurance needs and our renewal,” the spokeswoman told Reuters in an emailed statement.

Environmentalists warn that Canadian tar sands are one of the highest-carbon sources of oil on the planet and their exploitation is contrary to international climate goals.

They are now turning their attention on the pipeline’s other biggest insurers, Chubb, Lloyd’s of London and Munich Re.

Over 100,000 people have signed a petition calling for Lloyd’s to stop insuring Trans Mountain, warning that its expansion plans would lead to “climate disaster”.

Munich Re has said it plans to review its contract given its new underwriting guideline on oil sands but no renewal decision had been made.

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