* Activist calls on insurers to sue big oil companies
* The latest volley in ongoing climate campaign
* Munich Re, Swiss Re CEOs push for gradual transformation
* The current debate is too shallow - Hannover Re CEO
FRANKFURT, Nov 26 (Reuters) - A prominent activist is
calling on insurers like Swiss Re to explore suing major oil
companies for climate-related damages, the latest volley in a
years-long campaign that pits environmentalists against the
The tactic urged by The Sunrise Project https://sunriseproject.org/about,
which has not previously been reported, faces an uphill battle.
Swiss Re Chief Executive Officer Christian Mumenthaler, in
an interview at the upcoming Reuters Next conference, advocated
a gradual path of decarbonisation and said such lawsuits "would
not be compatible, I think, with our philosophy."
Munich Re CEO Joachim Wenning, in a separate Reuters Next
interview, also dismissed the idea.
The latest standoff is typical of the ongoing tug-of-war:
Climate activists fear that insurers are enabling polluting
industries like coal and oil, while insurers advocate a more
moderate transition in step with a changing industry.
Insurers Swiss Re, Munich Re, Hannover
Re and others have over the past few years tightened
underwriting and investment policies to exclude some polluting
industries from their business, but they fall short of
More stringent policies have focused primarily on coal,
while oil and gas policies have lagged.
"They should pull out all the stops," said Peter Bosshard,
director of finance at Sunrise. "Our role is to push the
Bosshard said Swiss Re would be well positioned to take the
lead in lawsuits against the oil industry, mimicking a strategy
by San Francisco and New York https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-municipals-fossilfuels-idUSKBN1EZ2Q2.
The International Association of Oil & Gas Producers did not
respond to a request for comment.
On his first day on the job in 2019, Hannover Re CEO
Jean-Jacques Henchoz received a blue sponge and dustpan from
climate activist group Urgewald, which urged him to clean up the
company's act on coal, according to Urgewald campaigner Regine
Munich Re's CEO, at his first annual general meeting in
2018, faced protesters with signs like "Stop Coal Now!" and a
petition of 6,000 signatures.
Both Hannover Re and Munich Re are increasingly turning
their backs on coal-related insurance business, but in the eyes
of activists, it is not enough and too slow.
Hannover Re's Henchoz said if insurers were to sever ties
quickly with polluting industries, unemployment would rise and
taxpayers would have to pick up the pieces.
"The current debate is too shallow, and we need to accept
that changes in energy mix and technologies will take some
time," he said. Massive investments will be required, and
reinsurers should support the transition, he said.
Munich Re's Wenning said activists are an "important
dynamic," influencing the public and investors, but that their
focus of "stopping to do something" was misplaced.
"We need to transform and push the whole industries towards
becoming green and not just stopping activity," he said.
To watch the ReutersNext conference please register here https://reutersevents.com/events/next/
(Reporting by Tom Sims; Editing by Richard Chang)