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CAN | Jul 10, 2024

Canada insurers investing in fossil fuels as climate risks grow, shareholder group says

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FILE PHOTO: The Imperial Strathcona Refinery which produces petrochemicals is seen near Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, October 7, 2021. REUTERS/Todd Korol/File Photo

TORONTO (Reuters)

Canada’s top property and casualty insurers have invested more than C$19.5 billion ($14.30 billion) in fossil fuels production at a time when climate change is driving up risks for the industry, according to a report by a shareholder advocacy group.

Investors for Paris Compliance (I4PC) called for regulators to examine fossil-fuels investments by the insurers, saying they result in higher claims and premiums.

Insurers typically invest premiums on behalf of other clients and have pumped money into miners and oil companies including Canadian miner Teck Resources and Imperial Oil, the report said.

I4PC has previously urged securities regulators to investigate major Canadian banks for their climate-related claims and for alleged misleading disclosures about their investments.

Extreme weather, including wildfires in Western Canada and floods on the East Coast, resulted in more than C$3 billion in property claims last year, the fourth-highest year for insured losses in Canadian history.

According to I4PC’s report, Intact Financial held C$1.48 billion in fossil-fuel investments last year, which dropped to C$742 million at the end of the first quarter. Asked about the finding, Intact said energy represented about 2% of its invested assets and it was committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

Quebec-based credit union and insurance seller Desjardins, which the report said owns C$298 million in fossil-fuel investments, said energy accounted for 0.6% of its loan book and that it would maintain relationships with companies that commit to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

Peer Definity Financial also holds fossil-fuel investments.

TD Bank, a lender that also sells insurance, is the largest fossil-fuel financier at C$15.47 billion, while Fairfax has C$1.53 billion in investment and has underwritten C$809 million.

TD said the report “contrasts the investment profile of TD Bank Group as a whole with those of insurance companies with more focused mandates, which affects the conclusions drawn.”

The cost of insurance has risen amid higher risk and inflation. Home and mortgage insurance rates in Canada have jumped by more than 73% over the past decade, according to I4PC.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada said the transition to a low-carbon economy must be undertaken in a measured way and the insurers were actively working with federal and provincial regulators.

It noted the industry’s steps to partner with the federal government to introduce a national flood insurance program next year that takes costs away from taxpayers and makes insurance more accessible.

(USD$1 = 1.3634 Canadian dollars)

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