The Hong Kong-based insurance company AIA, whose logo features on Tottenham Hotspur shirts, has bowed to pressure from campaigners and announced it will pull out of all coal investments by 2028.
AIA, the largest independent, publicly listed pan-Asian life insurance group, made the pledge in its environmental, social and governance report released this week. It is the first major insurance company in Asia to promise such a move.
AIA has $326bn of funds under management and is estimated to hold up to $6bn in coal and coal-fired power assets, according to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.
Campaigners had attacked the insurer’s climate credentials as a “dirty secret” that stained the shirt of Tottenham, worn by Harry Kane, Hugo Lloris and teammates since 2013. The football-themed push, branded AIA Kick Out Coal, was led by the divestment groups Insure Our Future and SumOfUs.
Peter Bosshard, the global coordinator of the Insure Our Future network, said: “As it divests from coal, AIA is aligning its investment portfolio with its public brand and is removing a stain from the Spurs shirts.”
A Tottenham spokesperson said: “AIA has shared with us the significant strides it has already made to address the carbon intensity of its investments and the planned action to reinforce their efforts as a result of the threat posed by climate change.”
For its directly managed funds, AIA said it would withdraw from all shareholdings in coalmining and coal-fired power businesses by the end of this year, and for bond investments by 2028. It will not permit any new investments in companies that are involved directly in mining coal or generating electricity from coal.
Last year AIA, which was set up in Shanghai in 1919, committed to pulling out of equity investments in companies that generate more than 30% of their revenues from coalmining and coal-fired power. Its new approach will apply to all investments in the sector, “regardless of revenue and coal capacity”. It said these criteria would also be applied to its dealings with third-party investment managers.
Lucie Pinson, the executive director of the Paris-based NGO Reclaim Finance, said: “If the approach is as comprehensive as it sounds, we will celebrate it as a bold signal to Asian institutional investors. Coal constitutes a plague for the climate and for public health – it’s high time for Asian financial institutions to catch up with their international peers, ditch coal and drive the transition towards a sustainable future.”
Last August the UN secretary general, António Guterres, said the coal business was “going up in smoke”. Most European and Australian insurers no longer provide cover for new coal projects, while others are becoming more cautious, according to the 2020 report from Insure Our Future. Controversial projects such as the Adani Group’s planned Carmichael coalmine in Australia are struggling to obtain insurance cover.
However, the report also found that major companies in the US and east Asia and within the London-based Lloyd’s market were still insuring coal, and the global insurance industry had failed to take comprehensive action on oil and gas.